- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Son of Saul

| June 16, 2017

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Son of Saul.

Well, this certainly took me long enough. This has been one of those films that I’ve been wanting to see since it won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2015. So you are probably wondering, “Hey! If you wanted to see it since then, why are you now watching it in June of 2017?” That’s a good question voice in my head that gives me all my insecurities. Admittedly I’ve kind of always put this film off because of the subject matter. I had always heard of good things from the film, especially following it winning Best Foreign Film at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes, this film is the first time a Hungarian Film has won the Golden Globe. And I’ve always recommended the film to people, without seeing it. Thinking about it now, I don’t think I’ve ever heard any heavy criticism of the film. From what I’ve seen the film has only been given universal praise. But with a film like this, it isn’t something that I’ve ever wanted to jump in and eat a bucket of popcorn with. But we’ll get into it.

Son of Saul is a Holocaust film concerning a member of the Sonderkommando. In other words, our main character is a prisoner in Auschwitz who has the job of moving and burning the deceased. Are you having fun yet? No? Well, don’t worry, because the film is about to get more sad. The plot of the film follows as Saul moves bodies until he recognizes one of them, whom he thinks is the body of his dead son. The film then follows as he does everything in his ability to give the body a proper Jewish Burial. So yeah. You can probably tell why I haven’t leaped into watching this film.

It’s interesting, both this film and Schindler’s List are on that list of films I have that I need to watch but have always not had the motivation to do so. And in the same week, I watched both. And they are both fantastic films but have different tones to them. In Schindler’s List, you have this horrible depressing but magnificently made film. You get the same thing in Son of Saul, the exception being that you can still tell that Spielberg made Schindler’s List because there is this magical element to it. That isn’t in Son of Saul when you hear the bodies burning and the children screaming in pain, you can’t ignore it. The director, László Nemes, doesn’t shy away from showing the horror and pain of the Holocaust, and he shouldn’t. The film has a dark and dirty and painful point of view and it isn’t for someone with a weak heart.

The film is shot in 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Often times the camera will stay on a close up for an extended period of time, to the point where I’m sure the shot list to the film was much shorter than the average feature film. At a certain point, would forget the last time there was a cut in the film because it would stay on a close up for so long that it just pulls you in. The shallow depth of field the film uses really puts you in the mind of the main character and drags you through the hell that the main character is experiencing. It keeps almost everything except the face out of focus to where you can’t focus on the dead bodies, you can’t focus on the details. This done in a way where you see how the main character is so apathetic to the situation because of how much of the horror he has had to see. You aren’t sensitive to everything being presented because the main character has become so desensitized to the horror that he doesn’t see it either. It’s very well shot, not in a compositional kind of way but in a psychological kind of way.

Yes it took me awhile to check it out, but I am very glad that I did. It’s a wonderfully crafted film, and one that deserves all of the praise it has gotten. Would it have cracked my top ten of 2015? Probably not, there are very small sound issues that end up being the weakest part of the film, but it is worth checking out. So if you are like me and haven’t made the jump, go ahead. You won’t have fun, but you will be glad you did it.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.
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