Hungarian, German, Yiddish, Russian, Polish, French, Greek, Slovak, with English subtitles
Principal Cast: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár, Urs Rechn
Winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival and already one of the most talked about films of the year, this powerful and gripping Holocaust drama from first-time director László Nemes follows a concentration camp inmate who goes to desperate lengths to secure a traditional Jewish burial for a young boy.
In the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp at the tail end of the Second World War, 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 former assistant to the great director Béla Tarr (The Turin Horse), Nemes displays a masterful control of the medium. Placing the viewer in constant proximity to Saul, he restricts our vision to a very limited field, even as the richly textured 35mm cinematography by Mátyás Erdély (James White, Miss Bala) and Tamás Zányi’s overwhelming sound design conjure up the nightmarish world just offscreen. Breaking new ground in the cinematic representation of the Holocaust, Nemes also creates a moving ode to the fortitude of the human spirit as he follows Saul’s search for redemption in the very midst of hell.