Son of Saul | Film review – Hungarian director Lázló Nemes’ harrowing Holocaust drama

A Jewish Sonderkommando in Auschwitz keeps a spark of humanity alive in Hungarian writer-director Lázló Nemes' harrowing Holocaust drama Son of Saul.

Son of Saul Géza Röhrig

Well-deserved winner of the 2016 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Hungarian writer-director Lázló Nemes’ harrowing drama Son of Saul plunges us into the heart of the Holocaust, depicting its horrors with unflinching honesty and rigorous control.

Played with haunting intensity by Géza Röhrig, the film’s protagonist is a Jewish Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau – one of the prisoners forced to assist the Nazis in the running of the camp – who becomes convinced that a young victim of the gas chamber is his son and begins a desperate quest to find a rabbi to give the boy a proper Jewish burial.

As Röhrig’s Saul goes about his seemingly futile mission, we share his perspective, sitting at his shoulder courtesy of the film’s restless hand-held camera. The relentless violence going on around him is mostly just out of focus, but this doesn’t make the film any easier to watch.

There is none of the false consolation or redemption offered by some other Holocaust movies, but Saul’s unshakable resolve does keep alive a fragile spark of humanity.


Certificate 15. Runtime 117 mins. Director Lázló Nemes

Son of Saul is available on Blu-ray & DVD, courtesy of Curzon Artificial Eye.


Q&A with director Laszlo Nemes
Behind the scenes GoPro Footage
Deleted Scene
Short Film ‘With a Little Patience’