Hot Take: The most depressing film of 2015 might also be the Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars. Son of Saul is as gripping as it is sad and as hard as it is to watch, Geza Rohrig (who plays Saul) and a well executed script won’t let you turn away.
It’s been about a month since I’ve seen Son of Saul and the ghastly images of Auschwitz and the brutality of the Holocaust are burned into my brain to the point where the mention of the film instantly fills me with sadness and disgust. Holocaust cinema is a genre typically associated with Oscar bait and sometimes tiresome and repetitive. Son of Saul brings a fresh, dark, disturbing perspective that is truly an accomplishment in the genre as it is unlike any other Holocaust film I’ve seen. Furthermore, this is a directorial début for Laszlo Nemes which speaks volumes to the achievement of the film as this isn’t typical of first time efforts.
Credit Nemes’ visual choices for dragging the viewer deeper into the experience of the victims of the tragedies of the Holocaust and not just the victims who were killed but their brothers (and fathers) forced to do the dirty work of cleaning up after the mass murdering of other prisoners with the false promise that they might actually be spared. Credit the film’s protagonist, Saul (played by Geza Rohrig) for delivering more through facial expressions and body language than any spoken word could add. The ever present conflict, pain and suffering of Saul are captured by Rohrig’s non-verbals partnered with Nemes’ directorial decisions.
Son of Saul is intense and suffocating. Combined with the claustrophobic camera angles pushed me to the emotional limit and by judging the reaction of the others in attendance, some boiled over. The film pulls no punches with it’s visuals and is one of the most difficult films to watch of 2015. The film is so powerful in delivering the message, it is hard to say it is enjoyable to watch but it is, without a doubt, great filmmaking.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
The way the film is shot and the effectiveness of every shot is a credit to the director and cinematographer for creating the intense, emotional and suffocating mood.
- Rohrig as Saul
Where the director and cinematographer fall short in conveying the message, Rohrig’s face fills in the gaps. Rohrig delivers a phenomenal performance that adds to the intensity and emotion of the film.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- It Really Isn’t Enjoyable
This is a great example of a film that has a story worthy of the big screen and is obviously well made but, in the end, is not an enjoyable film to watch. In no way, shape or form does this take away from the excellence of the movie but it is one of the least enjoyable films in recent memory. It’s hard to digest.