Son of Saul (15)

five stars

Dir: László Nemes

With: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár

Runtime: 107 minutes

THERE was never any doubting what would be the winner of the Oscar for best foreign film this year. László Nemes’ drama, which was Hungary’s entry, is a stunning piece of work.

Cinema has visited the horrors of the Holocaust before, and any director who wants to follow must do so aware that many perils await. How can such evil be portrayed on screen? How can one possibly show any triumph of humanity amid the barbarity?

Nemes’ answer on both these counts is to proceed with caution and respect. There are sights here that will never be erased from memory, and nor should they be, but there are also moments when hope and decency shine from the screen.

Mostly these qualities are written on the face of the film’s central character, Saul Auslander, played by Géza Röhrig. Saul is a Sonderkommando, forced to labour at Auschwitz. It is while undertaking his work one day that Saul, almost numb to what he is doing, sees a young boy who he thinks is his son. Saul now takes it as his duty to see that the lad is taken care of, to be shown love in a place devoid of it.

Röhrig delivers a superb performance, his face etched with utter sadness and despair until he finds a mission in life. What a pity he was not in the running for a best actor Oscar.