Saul Fia: A masterpiece

                    The holocaust drama, Saul Fia (Son of Saul), is about a prisoner in Auschwitz (Birkenau) concentration camp, Auslander Saul. He is actually a sonderkommando, a prisoner who burns the dead and cleans the camp as a price for a few months of life. Laszlo Nemes and Clara Royer take two days from the life of Saul for the story. Even after being poisoned in the chamber, a boy survives for a few minutes, whom Saul takes for his son and wants to give a proper burial accompanied by a rabbi saying the Kaddish. The film portrays the struggles of Saul, his sufferings, his emotions and simultaneously shows the uprising of the sonderkommandos. It is not clearly shown whether the boy is Saul’s own son or he thinks him to be. But he tries to get a moral redemption by giving the boy a proper burial- redemption for not taking care of his boy earlier, for his inability to protect the fellow prisoners, for his inability to protect the Jewish community.

                      This is a grand aural journey of 107minutes with more than seven different languages in the background-which Saul hears. So vast was the range of sound, that it took 150 days for the sound design to be attached to the original recording after production.  Sound designer Tamas Zanyi does the work brilliantly, which can be noticed when we “hear” the film. Another feature of this feature is its shallow depth of field. It is mostly shot with a 40mm lens which helps the cinematographer, Matyas Erdely, to show the viewer only what Saul sees.  To concentrate on Saul and Saul only, it is filmed on academy ratio (1.375:1), which leaves little space for the background scenery giving the film a portrait like feel. This is director Laszlo Nemes’ first venture in feature film and he does it so well that the film one of the best of 2015, if not the best. He makes the sound as a sort of acoustic counterpoint to the intentionally narrowed imagery and handles the concept very well. Nowhere will a person feel that these are forced onto the film, but due to these the emotions and struggle of Saul is conveyed in such moving and harsh a way that it makes the film a cinephile’s delight. Through the film the director tries to convey how the Jewish culture was wiped by the Nazis and Saul’s fight to get a proper burial for the boy signifies how few people tried to protect the culture but to no avail. The story is so harsh that it strikes the heart, the sound so intense that it devours the ears, the visual so real that it overwhelms the eyes, the effect so great that it stays permanently – a true masterpiece.

Film Score:94

Director: Laszlo Nemes

Screenplay:  Laszlo Nemes, Clara Royer

Actor: Geza Rohrig, Levente Molnar etc.

Cinematography: Matyas Erdely

Music: Laszlo Melis

Sound Design: Tamas Zanyi

Editing: Matthieu Taponier 

Saul Fia was awarded the Grand Prix Jury and FIPRESCI prize in Cannes (2015) and Academy Award for Best Foreign Film (2016).

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