Last night’s 10 pm screening of Laszlo Nemes‘ Son of Saul shook me out of my end-of-the-day fatigue. This is an immediate Palme d’Or contender, I told myself. No day at the beach but one of the most searing and penetrating Holocaust films I’ve ever seen, and that’s obviously saying something. Shot entirely in close-ups (and occasional medium close-ups), this is a Hungarian-made, soul-drilling, boxy-framed art film about a guy with a haunted, obliterated expression who works in an Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp as a Sonderkommando (i.e., prisoners who assisted the Germans in exterminating their fellow inmates in order to buy themselves time). His name is Saul Auslander (Geza Rohrig — a slamdunk Best Actor nominee), and the film is basically about this guy foolishly risking his life in order to properly bury a young boy who’s been exterminated — a boy he plainly doesn’t know but whom he claims in his son. I have to catch an 8:30 am Lobster screening but everyone — Variety‘s Justin Chang, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy (with whom I conversed last night by email), Indiewire’s Eric Kohn, TheWrap‘s Steve Pond, Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday, Toronto Star‘s Pete Howell — is flipping out about this film, and you can include me.
The harrowing lead performance by Son Saul‘s Geza Rohrig could conceivably win Best Actor by festival’s end.