Film Notes: Son of Saul (2015) directed by László Nemes

HU / 107 minutes / color / Laokoon Filmgroup Dir: László Nemes Pro: Gábor Sipos, Gábor Rajna Scr: László Nemes, Clara Royer Cine: Mátyás Erdély Mus: László Melis Cast: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnar, Urs Rechn, Todd Charmont, Sándor Zsótér, Marcin Czarnik, Jerzy Zalczak, Uwe Lauer, Christian Harting, Kamil Dobrowski, Amital Kedar, Istvan Pion, Juli Jakab, Levente Orban Release Date: (Cannes Film Festival) 15 May 2015. (Spain) 15 January 2016-

Son of Saul (Original title: Saul fia) is set in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, and follows a day-and-a-half in the life of Saul Ausländer (played by Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando. The film premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. It was also shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. It is the ninth Hungarian film to be nominated for the award, and the first one since István Szabó’s Hanussen in 1988. It won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. It is the first Hungarian film to win the award. (Source: Wikipedia)

Synopsis: One of the most talked-about films of the year, and winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival László Nemes’ tour-de-force directorial debut is a powerful and gripping representation of the horrors of the Holocaust. In the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp at the tail end of the Second World War, the Hungarian Jew Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig) works as a member of the camp’s Sonderkommando unit, assigned to shepherd the constant stream of prisoners into the gas chambers and dispose of their bodies thereafter. When one young boy he retrieves from the chamber exhibits a brief flicker of life before dying, Saul is shaken out of his deadened state. Determined to give the child a proper burial — a mission made even more urgent by an impending breakout attempt — Saul manoeuvres his way through the camp’s intricate networks in search of a rabbi to perform the Jewish prayer for the dead. “A terrifyingly accomplished first feature … a masterful exercise in narrative deprivation and sensory overload that recasts familiar horrors in daringly existential terms” (Variety). (Source: Toronto Film Festival)

László Nemes was born in 1977 in Budapest, Hungary. After studying History, International Relations and Screenwriting in Paris, he started working as an assistant director in France and Hungary on short and feature films. For two years, he worked as Béla Tarr’s assistant on The Man From London, and subsequently studied film directing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He directed the shorts Türelem (07), The Counterpart (08), and The Gentleman Takes His Leave (10). Son of Saul (15) is his first feature. He is member of the European Film Academy since 2008.

Begoña and I had the opportunity to see this film a couple of days ago and I very much agree with foxgrove, a reviewer at  Metacritic, here. He wrote: “Son of Saul is one of those important films that comes so steeped in the injustices and horrors of its history that one feels positively guilty about saying anything negative about it.” …. “The ambiguity surrounding whether or not the boy is actually Saul’s …. causes confusion in the narrative which, in turn, has an overall detrimental impact.” “The film’s style further distances…. Long tracking shots, out of focus imagery and an in your face claustrophobic feel becomes somewhat overwhelming.” “Likewise, the frenetic and dizzying camera movements don’t always allow time to process exactly what is happening.” However, I also realises the film has some superb sequences. And I could not agree more with him when he states that “Overall the film cries out to be seen (the critics seem to have been inventing superlatives for it). I just wish that I liked it as much as I appreciate it.” (The emphasis in bold letters is mine). In any case it’s an essential film for a better understanding of II World War. It seems to me a clear favourite to win the Best Foreign Language Film award at the Oscars.

Official site

Laszlo Nemes Narrates a Scene From ‘Son of Saul’

Laszlo Nemes’s Son of Saul by David Hudson at Fandor

The Hollywood Reporter

OT: Kandinsky A Retrospective


The one in CentroCentro Cibeles, Plaza de Cibeles 1, Madrid, it is probably the largest exhibition dedicated to Vassily Kandinsky made in Spain. From 20 October to 28 February we can enjoy Kandinsky A Retrospective a great exhibition dedicated to the Russian artist Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) that has been organized in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou in Paris and Arthemisia Group, and it is curated by Angela Lampe, Curator of Modern Art at the National Museum of Modern Art at the Pompidou Centre.

The exhibition is divided chronologically into four chapters which trace the various episodes of Kandinsky’s life. At the age of thirty he was studying law an economics, but decided to abandon his university career and leave Russia for Munich in order to became a painter. It seems that two aesthetic experiences had been decisive for him. The first was the discovery of one of Claude Monet’s Haystacks in a Moscow gallery: the force of its non-figurative approach made a permanent impression on him. The second, shortly after,was a performance of Lohengrin at the Bolshoi Theatre. Wagner’s opera was a revelation of the power inherent in an art as abstract as music, which was capable of generating brightly colours mental images. The synthesis of the arts was to become a constant in Kandinsky’s work, and central to his famous publications, Concerning the Spiritual in Art and the Blaue Reiter Almanac, which he co-published with his friend Franz Marc in May 1912. The outbreak of World War One put an end to the vibrant Munich period. Kandinsky had to return to his native land, where he helped to reorganise artistic life in revolutionary Russia, up until the moment when he was invited by the founder of the Bauhaus, the architect Walter Gropius, to come to Germany an join the latter’s renowned art school in Weimar. Along with Paul Klee, Kandinsky became a leading figure in the innovative educational system. When the institution was closed by the Nazis in 1933, he was obliged to go into exile yet again, this time in Paris, where he remained until the end of his life. Angela Lampe. (Taken from the exhibition programme)

This travelling exhibition was on display in 2014 at the Palazzo Reale in Milan, before travelling to Milwaukee and Nashville, United States. In Madrid it will be on show in CentroCentro until February 28, 2016. If, on these dates, you happen to be here, do not miss the opportunity of visiting the exhibition, Begoña and I went this morning.

CentroCentro Palacio de Cibeles (in Spanish)

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