This is the review of mine that will probably be the hardest to write. I saw the film a few weeks ago and I didn’t know how I would even start writing the review. Then I went to see Auschwitz for myself when I went to Krakow and, seeing the camp for myself has inspired me to write this review. This will not be a review in the traditional way I do it, it’s going to just be my thoughts as they come into my head. With that said, here are my thoughts on Son of Saul.The film concerns Saul Auslander, a Jew forced to work as a member of the Sonderkommando in Auschwitz, meaning that they work in the gas chambers and crematorium. One day, one of the children taken to Auschwitz survives the gas chamber and Saul sees the child, believing that the child is his son and he attempts to find a Rabbi willing to perform a proper Jewish burial for the boy. At the same time, the other members of the Sonderkommando are planning an uprising to destroy one of the crematories and escape Auschwitz, hoping to join the Polish resistance, with Saul getting involved in order to find a Rabbi. The brilliance of the film comes through the way it presents the horrors of Auschwitz, mainly in that it really doesn’t. The horrors of the camp are in the margins of the frame, virtually the entire film is framed in such a way that you only see Saul on screen and through this, an a quietly haunting performance by Geza Rohrig, you feel the horror of the Holocaust even more powerfully. This techniques helps to put you in the shoes of Saul, showing how he has had to numb himself to what he sees and does in Auschwitz in order to stay alive. This is a feature that means this story could only have been done as a film. The subversion of the tricks of cinema allow the story of Saul to have a much more powerful impact long after you finish watching the film.
The other thing that made the film powerful is how accurate it was at depicting the life of the Sonderkommando, something which the visit to Auschwitz fully helped me comprehend. The life of the Sonderkommando is hell, surrounded by death and forced to help in committing horrific actions, at all points living in fear that they will be sent to the gas chambers themselves. Seeing the lives of the Sonderkommando on film, combined with seeing how they lived when I saw Auschwitz, affected me more than any other film I’ve seen in the past few years. The film also does a good job at replicating events that happened to the Sonderkommando. The uprising I described earlier on in the review is based on a real uprising that occurred in Auschwitz and at one point, one of the Sonderkommando takes pictures of conditions in Auschwitz in the hopes of releasing them to the rest of the world should they escape and the photos depicted being taken here are real photos which are on display in Auschwitz. The performances by the whole cast further reinforce the hell that the members of the Sonderkommando are living through, once again praise has to go to Geza Rohrig as Saul for showing the horror of the camps in his face and his determination to do one last act of good in the camps by burying the child, even if there is a strong likelihood that the child isn’t his son. There’s so much pain in Rohrig’s face throughout the film that it transcends the film and the audience feels it just as strongly, increasing the power this film has.
Son of Saul is a masterpiece, there’s no two ways about it. It does probably the most effective job of any film of making you feel what it was like in Auschwitz and showing how the people in the camps had to numb their minds to the horrors of what they are seeing in order to survive. The way this story and this feeling is presented is something that could only be achieved through the language of film and reinforces just how powerful a medium film can be. This is easily the best film that I will see this year and I urge all of you to watch this film as soon as you can, it has just been released on DVD in the UK, when you get the chance, watch this film, it’s a hard, brutal film to watch but one of the few films that I will say people need to see.
My Rating: 5/5