The horrors of Auschwitz have been documented many times on film. While there has been plenty of stories told, there are so many that haven’t. These stories deserve be told, so that we will not forget and ever repeat them. Most of the stories are filled with darkness, as ones of hope are so difficult to find, and they all deal with the prisoners or someone who had helped, but few have told the story of The Sonderkommando. When I say few, I mean one, that would be “The Grey Zone” , a film about a Jewish doctor forced to work in Auschwitz. A Sonderkommando were Jews who were forced to work in camps, and “Son of Saul” is a story about them.
Saul ( Geza Rohrig) is a Hungarian who as the film begins is leading other Jews to their deaths. After everything was done, it is the Sonderkommandos who have to clean up, dispose of the bodies, and prepare the room for the next group. While cleaning, a boy is found to have survived and is gasping for air, Saul takes him out where a doctor examines him as Saul calls this boy his son. He begs him not to cut him open and the Doctor tells him he will give him some time with his son that night. Saul just wants to give his son a proper burial, so he starts to look for a Rabbi to help him perform this task. While Saul is trying to give his son what he needs, the Skomderkommando revolt of the 7th of October 1944 is also happening, as these two things collide.
“Son of Saul” pulls you in with the first 15 minutes, as an unfocused frame comes into focus with Saul’s face and another man saying the words “Lets go.” With those words we are taken on a third person view as Saul goes through his day, and the horrible things he must do. Saul’s story wouldn’t have as much meaning if it wasn’t for the performance by Rohrig, whose actions speak as loud as any words that are spoken. Written by Clara Royer and Laszlo Nemes, the later also directing, deliver a film of that of a seasoned filmmaker even though this is both their feature debut. While the beginning of the film grabs a hold of you tightly, as the film continues, it never lets go, as you are invested with everything happing in front of you. There is no simple way to tell this story and Nemes tells it how it should be told. This is the kind of film that stuns us, and teaches us at the same time. While not the easiest subject to watch, even though it’s not a sweeping epic like “Schindler’s List” it is more focused and personal. I have seen many films that tell many different stories from this era in history. While they are all unique, there are some that are darker than others. “Son of Saul” is a trip to the dark side that is worth it, for not many films will move you like this one.