Oscar-winning Hungarian feature film Son of Saul did not only make it to The Guardian’s list of the 100 best films of the 21st century, but it finished within the top 15. According to the British daily, the Hungarian drama is the 12th best film of our century.
Son of Saul is a 2015 drama film directed by László Nemes. The film is Nemes’s feature directorial debut. It is set in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. The plot follows the life of Saul Ausländer, a member of the Sonderkommando. Saul, a Jewish prisoner himself, is forced to work in the gas chambers and crematoria. Saul goes to great lengths to give a dead boy, whom he calls his son, a proper burial.
The film premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. It also won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2016. The prize is Hungary’s second in the category, as the first went to director István Szabó for Mephisto (1982).
Son of Saul also won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, becoming the first Hungarian film ever to win the award.
The film is described by The Guardian as:
“Brutally visceral fable that plunges the viewer headlong into the all-encompassing horror of a Nazi extermination camp. Shot in remorseless, unforgiving close-up by first time Hungarian director László Nemes, the story of a Jewish prison-camp worker whose job it is to help clear the gas chamber of corpses is cinema at its absolute rawest.”
In an earlier review of the film, Peter Bradshaw wrote:
“This film would be an achievement for anyone, but for a first-time feature director it is stunning – something to compare with Elem Klimov’s Come and See. Son of Saul reopens the debate around the Holocaust and its cinematic thinkability, addresses the aesthetic and moral issues connected with creating a fiction within it and probes the nature of Wittgenstein’s axiom “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.”
According to The Guardian, the five best films of the 21st century are: