First-time helmer Laszlo Nemes’ Son Of Saul picked up a Foreign Language Oscar nomination last Thursday after it won the Golden Globe the Sunday before. This past Sunday, it was named Best Foreign Language Film at the Critics’ Choice Awards. To say the Holocaust drama has been on a roll ever since it debuted in Cannes — where it won the Grand Prize — is an understatement. One of the most lauded and talked about foreign films of the year — as the new trailer from Sony Pictures Classics notes above — it also has a DGA nomination for Nemes in the outstanding debut category.
The story centers on Saul Ausländer, a Sonderkommando prisoner at Auschwitz forced to assist the Nazis by feeding the crematoria the endless stream of bodies from the gas chambers. Set over a day and a half, the film closely follows the title character (Géza Rohrig) as he discovers among the dead a barely alive boy he believes is his young son. As the Sonderkommando plans a rebellion, Saul becomes obsessed with finding a rabbi to recite the mourner’s Kaddish and offer him a proper burial. This new look features dialogue whereas the first trailer released in November was set to music.
The Hungarian film, Nemes told me recently, has struck a chord because “people had no immersive experience of the Holocaust and no sense of what the individual must have gone through and that’s compelling for people and creates a whole experience. There’s also the fact that it speaks very naturally to younger audiences, for the first time they really feel and are not only trying to understand in an intellectual way.” His approach also pushes the boundaries, he says, asking, “How much risk as a filmmaker are you willing to take? Are you willing to interrogate the language of cinema?”
SPC released the film Stateside in mid-December and this weekend added 17 theaters following the Oscar nom. The U.S. cume as of Sunday was $334,676.