Laszlo Nemes’ Hungarian drama, Son Of Saul, has been on a run since breaking out at Cannes with the Grand Jury Prize last May — and it’s having itself quite a weekend. It’s just taken the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, a day after it scooped the Indie Spirit for Best International Film and won its category at the Golden Reel Awards. Of the hauntingly intense Holocaust drama, Nemes said from the Oscar stage tonight, “Even in the darkest hours of mankind, there might be a voice within us that allows us to remain human. That is the hope of this film.”
Son Of Saul follows 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 focuses on Saul (Géza Rohrig) as he discovers among the dead a barely alive boy he believes is his young son. Failing to save the boy from being murdered, he becomes obsessed with finding a rabbi to give him a proper burial.
This weekend’s kudos are added to a Golden Globe and a DGA nod for the helmer, along with myriad other accolades. But Son Of Saul almost didn’t make it as an Oscar nominee. As Deadline’s Pete Hammond has noted, the drama was not among the Foreign Language committee’s six choices for a slot on the shortlist and was instead added as a “save” by the executive committee which was formed a few years ago to avoid embarrassing omissions. This is Hungary’s 2nd Oscar win, following master Istvan Szabo’s 1981 Mephisto.
FilmsDistribution sold this one internationally and Sony Pictures Classics snatched it up in Cannes. Since releasing Stateside in December, it’s grossed about $1.3M.