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 Son of Saul won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2016

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Son of Saul won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2016 Empty
1PostSubject: Son of Saul won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2016   Son of Saul won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2016 EmptyFri Mar 04, 2016 4:35 pm

This film is excellent, I watched it twice in a theater. It was picking up after the Cannes art film festival, then it won the Independent Oscar a day before the Commercial Oscar. Foreign films nominated sounded interesting, one was about a Columbian Ayahuasca sorcerer's world, another one was The War by a Danish crew.
The film is watchable, though it is painstakingly recreating a few days in the life of the Auschwitz Sonderkommando (Jewish prisoners tasked with stacking bodies and taking their valuables after gassing. They were usually killed every few months for the sake of industrial secrecy. Saul Auslander finds a survivor after a gassing, then the doctor kills the boy with an injection, but Saul thinks it is his own son and wants to do everything to secure a proper Jewish burial with a Rabbi and as simple as customs require.
Since the cameraman (Mátyás Erdély) shoots everything from Saul's angle, most of the time you cannot see anything but his head and the rest of it blurs. Stuff he no longer wanted to see. No tearjerk music. The German-Hungarian-Slavic soundtrack counterpoints this, so you hear everything. History experts worked for seven years to make everything authentic, yet only the crew saw the stuff. The story is fictional but it was based upon the memories of Dr. Nyiszli, who was the autopsy worker answering to Mengele.
For some reason it is a liberating experience - I think it is not about Jews only, it is also about Hungary, about Eastern Europe, and the absurdity of human existence in this modern hell. And the emphasis is on absurdity - if you think of absurd theater and alienation in post-world-war fiction and art, just watch the protagonist Saul's face (Géza Röhrig, a civilian actor who happens to be a religious Jew living in New York City). It explains everything from existentialism to the psychology of Viktor Frankl, another Holocaust survivor.
Hungary cheered in clubs around the world last Monday night and Tuesday dawn. One hundred and fifty thousand people had watched Son of Saul in Hungary since its release in June in theaters, which is a substantial number in a country of 9+ million people.
You can watch it online but the makers recommend theaters since they used traditional film materials not digital. Director Laszlo Nemes says that 36 mm film is needed in a good enough theater.
How can you make an almost-documentary of the deepest hell of the Holocaust without simply horrifying viewers, without simple sentimentality, avoiding the narrator-enriched old photographs and the clichés - with a protagonist that at times reminds me of the anti-heroes of existential movies and literature? Nemes and Röhrig and ASC Erdély solved it on a tiny budget.

On another note, the film helps in the facing of Hungary's history which was severely lacking the facing many Germans did painstakingly for 70-years, here history began to be manipulated and open sympathy expressed for Nazi "heroes" by the ruling right wing. But with so many history articles, debates and programs revealing that in certain periods of WW2 history, our part was the worst - the worst months of Auschwitz were mostly about people from Hungarian territories. In fact, the name of Auschwitz could never have become the world-famous symbol of Nazi historical crimes around the world without the active participation of Hungary, no matter if the current nationalist wing tries to pass on the blame to Germans. Clear as winter ice: even though the Nazis started it, we were proportionally the worst offenders and Hungary had the worst victim stories at the same time. The local Nazis were simply overwhelmed by the transports from Hungary for several months... People who were looked upon by the regime as non-humans - Gypsies included.

Yet there is no accusation in the whole movie. Dialogues are realistic, dissociation is natural - and in a couple of hours even the cumulative effect (described in survivors' journals) starts to come through... Day in, day out, the same thing. Corpses are called die Stücke - pieces. These folks could get relatively good food, cigarettes etc. but they knew their days were numbered because they always disappeared in teams. And sometimes they had to dispose of their own family members. No stopping.

The avant-garde filming technique subtly lets on that the Hungarian language was one of the chief languages of the inmates - some speak bad German, or some Yiddish. The soundscape won another prize separately because it is so consciously planned. And as a metaphor, liberating to the historical consciousness without taking sides.

It's a different art than all the films about similar subjects so far - Schindler, the Killing Fields etc. It truly deserves world fame in the Information Age.
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