By Peyton Sanders
“Son of Saul” is a fierce and relentlessly heartbreaking testimony leaving the audience with almost no time to breath or weep.
The film follows Saul, a Jewish prisoner in a concentration camp. He belongs to a unit of men named the Sonderkommandos, tasked with the disposal and routine cleanup of the dead. One day, Saul comes across the lifeless body of his young son and must choose between providing a proper, Jewish burial for him or assisting in an organized uprising with the rest of the prisoners.
You would be hard pressed to find a more urgent film than “Son of Saul” in recent memory. The director’s use of handheld, over-the-shoulder camerawork gave a vital awareness to the audience. What is unfolding onscreen along with the decisions of our protagonist makes for an imperative and disciplined viewing.
“Son of Saul’s” director, László Nemes, has crafted a fictitious Holocaust film that seems determined to deliberately and quite literally direct focus off of the tangible horror of the Holocaust. Nemes is aware that such an atrocity like the Holocaust is inconceivable through mere celluloid. The simple attempt at a Holocaust fiction seems almost blasphemous to some.
So is there a need for Holocaust fiction when the actual event itself contains multitudes of untold stories?
The answer is yes. This is not to negate or dilute the horror experienced by the victims of the Holocaust. It’s to say that the Holocaust is simply indescribable. So a work of Holocaust fiction centrally focused on a specific plight is an attempt at preserving the rightful memory of the real-life sufferers.
“Son of Saul” will be released on DVD/Blu-Ray on April 26, 2016.