László Nemes’ film ‘Son of Saul’ is released in Irish cinemas this week, and tells the story of the final days of Nazi Germany, through the eyes of a Hungarian prisoner at a concentration camp. Saul (Géza Röhrig) is tasked with clearing out the gas chambers, when he discovers a young boy still breathing. Determined to give the boy a proper burial, Saul sets out on a journey through the various factions of the camp looking first for the boy’s body, then for a rabbi who will help him in his mission.
To celebrate the release of the critically beloved film, Movies.ie have gathered together 10 facts about ‘Son of Saul’ that you really need to know. Keep reading to find out more…
‘Son of Saul’ is director László Nemes’ first feature length film, and went on to win the award for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars earlier this year.
‘Son of Saul’ debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last year but was originally entered into the Berlin Film Festival. The film was selected to play at the Panorama section at Berlin, so the producers took their chances and pulled the film from the festival entirely, aiming for Cannes instead. The risk paid off, ‘Son of Saul’ won Grand Prix at Cannes last year.
Director László Nemes came up with the idea of the film from the book ‘The Scrolls of Auschwitz’. The book is a collection of witness accounts by Sonderkommando members, and Nemes discovered the book during the production of Béla Tarr’s ‘The Man from London’ in 2005 when he was working as Tarr’s assistant.
Director Nemes wanted to cast actors to speak in their native languages. Hungarian poet Géza Röhrig – who is now based in New York City – had not acted in film since the 1980s, was considered for a supporting role, but ended up being cast in the head role.
5. Unusual Job
At the time he was cast in the film – which is his feature film debut – lead actor Géza Röhrig was working as a Shomer in a Manhattan funeral home. A Shomer is a person who sits with a body so that it is not left alone before a funeral.
During the preparation, director László Nemes, cinematographer Mátyás Erdély and production designer László Rajk made a pledge to stick to certain rules, including the film cannot look beautiful, the film cannot be a horror film and staying with Saul means not going beyond his own field of vision, hearing, or presence; the camera is Saul’s companion, it stays with him throughout this hell.
The film was shot in just 28 days, but went through five months of sound design to perfect the clamour of voices in the background.
8. Aspect Ratio
‘Son of Saul’ was shot in the now unusual Academy aspect ratio of 1.375:1 to achieve a portrait-like narrow field of vision, since the film was designed to stay within the lead character’s field of vision.
9. Open Letter
Philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman wrote a 25-page open letter to director László Neme, which was published in the French book ‘Sortir du Noir’. The letter begins: “Your film, ‘Son of Saul’, is a monster. A necessary, coherent, beneficial, innocent monster”.
10. When can I see ‘Son of Saul’?
‘Son of Saul’ is released in Irish cinemas on April 29th 2016. Watch the trailer below…