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The darkness of the holocaust is illuminated in 'Son of Saul'

Géza Röhrig stars in "Son of Saul" (Sony Pictures Classics)

Son of Saul
4 out of 5 Stars
Director:
László Nemes
Starring: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár, Urs Rechn
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
Rated: R for disturbing violent content, and some graphic nudity.
Recommended To: Those looking for a different kind of holocaust film that focuses on the possible psychological disintegration of a prisoner.

Synopsis: Saul (Géza Röhrig) is an Auschwitz prisoner tasked with burning the bodies of the dead. Pushed to the brink of insanity Saul adopts the corpse of a young boy as his son and endangers his life and those around him by trying to give the child a proper Jewish burial.

Review: I've seen numerous World War II films; none of them are like "Son of Saul." While not based on one particular individual's account of the Sonderkommando (those required to burn the bodies) writer/director László Nemes was inspired by real stories. To give the film a sense of reality Nemes also collaborated with various Auschwitz and holocaust experts. The results are quite strong as "Son of Saul" provides a peek into the psychological aspects of captivity as one man attempts to hold on to his humanity through a seemingly insane act of kindness.

Saul is a frustrating character, purposefully so. His singular focus leads to immediate consequences that reverberate throughout those around him; consequence that don't seem to trouble Saul. He is a man searching for a sense of humanity that was stolen from him. His ability to recapture that sense of being becomes far more important to him than the lives of those around him as well as his life itself.

"Son of Saul" is a difficult, but enlightening film. The performances are all quite strong and the film's gritty aesthetic (it was shot on 35mm film) works in its favor. It's hard to believe that this is Nemes's feature-length debut. I may have preferred last year's post-holocaust film "Phoenix," but should "Son of Saul" win Best Foreign Language Fiilm at the Oscars I won't be complaining.

Follow Ryan on Twitter for entertainment and movie news: @ryanMpainter

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