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Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes’ debut, and Oscar-winning, Holocaust picture rejects “the Hollywood version” of the concentration camps and takes the audience into a taboo zone that is far from safe or comfortable to enter.
Set in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1944, Son of Saul documents the suffering and moral quandary of one man, protagonist Saul Auslander (Geza Rohrig). Auslander is a Jewish prisoner and member of the infamous Sonderkommando, a special squad of inmates forced to assist in the extermination process later to be liquidated themselves.
The film is shot almost entirely with the focus on Auslander’s agonised face placing the audience on his shoulder ‘turning viewers into virtual witnesses when eye witnesses are becoming scarce’ (The Times of Israel). It’s an old Nazi trick, long before Nazis, and still practiced in prisons all over the world. Chosen ‘school prefect’ prisoners. Though not here. Saul is doomed to the role of ‘trustee’. Terrifying.
Nemes, having lost members of his own family during the Holocaust, leaves us with a clear message… that the responsibility to remember does not die with the last of the survivors.