Saul Auslander (Géza Röhrig) is a Jewish Hungarian prisoner working as a member of the Sonderkommando at one of the Auschwitz Crematoriums, when Saul finds a boy choking to death Saul becomes convinced that this boy is his son, Saul then tries to bury the corpse of a boy who may or may not be his son. Saul tries to give the body a respectful death by salvaging the body and finding a rabbi to bury it. Meanwhile there is a talk of rebellion in the air but Saul's focuses is on the corpse he believes to be his son.
There are some that lament the number of Holocaust films being released then it's advisable for them to watch the Hungarian Best Foreign Picture winner Son of Saul because of the film's original take on the subject. What makes the film unique and above almost all films of a similar subject matter is the way the film is shot which is almost completely in close ups. The film is often either shot looking directly at Saul Ausländer's hollow and expressionless face or shot directly behind Saul with only our central protagonist in focus whilst the horror occurs around him suggesting that witnessing the day to day horrors of the Auschwitz concentration camp has dulled him to them.
The fact that the majority of the camp's horrors occurs off screen means that the audience is left to imagine the horrors that occur. What helps gives the film its powerful and harrowing nature is the soundtrack which assists the audience in imagining the brutal conditions. From out side our line of vision we hear prisoners being beaten, the cracking of gunshots and the banging on metal doors by those screaming for help whilst they are being gassed. This gives us a film that isn't moving in a Hollywood way, no tears will be shed, but it will leave the viewer thoroughly emotionally drained by the film's horrific nature.
Géza Röhrig's performance is exceptional, but it's the work of director László Nemes (in his debut feature) which propels the film to greatness ensuring that it's an impactful and memorable entry in a topic where it's difficult to judge what's acceptable. Nemes' decision to shoot in almost entirely in close ups is as brave as it is commendable and the technical brilliance of the film takes nothing away from the film's impact which will linger long after it's finished.