Directed by Laszlo Nemes
From 29th April 2016
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
This is an incredible debut feature film by Hungarian Laszlo Nemes, aided by astonishing cinematography by Matyas Erdely.
It is set in the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944, although there is no indication of this in the film.
The Nazi atrocities committed during the Holocaust are always seen out of focus and on the periphery of the camera frame.
Virtually throughout the movie the camera is fixed on the face of the main character Saul (played by the poet Geza Rohrig)
He is expressionless for the most part, producing a melancholic richness amid a hellish world, even though his job is to send fellow Jews to their deaths, having been forcibly coerced into doing so by Nazi officers.
The title of the film derives from his belief that, although he is dead, he has saved his ten-year-old ‘son’ from being incinerated in one of the ovens.
Instead he wants to bury the hidden body with Jewish funeral rites.
We never know for certain whether the boy is his son, although he is probably not.
The scenes of the Jewish workers, in what resembles a killing factory, dragging the dead bodies around on the floor are a potent symbol of the loss of individuality of the Jewish people at that time.
In a similar way the Nazi officers and soldiers are given no individual characterisation. they are as one – a unit of overpowering force and destruction.
They are almost anonymous, invisible, as they ply their lethal ways. They are represented as very evil shadow figures.
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