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'Son of Saul': EW Review

EW: Winner of the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, first-time filmmaker László Nemes’ shattering Holocaust drama is about trying to hold on to the smallest shred of humanity in the midst of the most inhumane chapter in history. Géza Röhrig, a newcomer himself whose day job in real life is teaching Jewish studies at a Brooklyn private school, stars as Saul Auslander. His performance is searing and unshakeable. Saul is a Hungarian Jew who works with an Auschwitz “Sonderkommando” unit–a special group of concentration camp prisoners who sort through the belongings of those marked for death and dispose of their corpses like hell’s janitors. In return, their own executions are delayed. From the opening scene of the film, Nemes and Röhrig push the audience into the infernal abyss with them. We see Saul silently ushering a new group of arrivals into the showers, where Nazi camp workers promise them hot meals, jobs, and pay. The expression on Saul’s face is utterly deadpan. Who knows how many times he’s heard these same lies? Within moments we hear banging on the shower doors, muffled cries of anguish. Through it all, Saul’s face doesn’t change. The screen goes black.

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