Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Original title: Saul Fia
Hungary, 2015. Laokoon Filmgroup, Hungarian National Film Fund, Sam Spiegel International Lab. Screenplay by Laszlo Nemes, Clara Royer. Cinematography by Matyas Erdely. Produced by Gabor Rajna, Gabor Sipos. Music by Laszlo Melis. Production Design by Laszlo Rajk. Costume Design by Edit Szucs. Film Editing by Matthieu Taponier. Academy Awards 2015. Cannes Film Festival 2015. Golden Globe Awards 2015. Independent Spirit Awards 2015. National Board of Review Awards 2015. New York Film Critics Awards 2015. North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2015. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2015. Toronto International Film Festival 2015. Washington Film Critics Award 2015.
Prisoners at Auschwitz were sometimes pulled out of the sea of doomed victims and made to work as Sonderkommando, forced to assist in the disposal of the belongings of the people who were murdered in mass showers and then, after the deed was done, to dispose of their bodies. Laszlo Nemes’ startling film debut keeps the camera close up on one such man who spends days and nights at this dark task knowing that he too will eventually number among the victims. Saul navigates the harsh commanders of his prison while at the same time developing relationships with other inmates like himself who barter and trade with each other; when one particular death captures his attention and provides him his first link to the human world he used to be part of, Saul risks life and limb to navigate the camp’s factory-like process to find a rabbi to perform kaddish. Decades of seeing the Holocaust dramatized and documented is somehow ill preparation for the experience of this masterful work, the opening sequence alone a stupendous shock to the senses. The noise is what dominates this film, a cacophony of voices and machinery as technology is used for the most evil purpose and creates a mood that is always unsettling and terrifying. Shot on film in the era of full digital conversion, it has a palatable texture that is accentuated by superbly achieved long takes and stunning performances for an all around masterpiece.