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Film Son of Saul proving to be an early contender for Cannes’s Palme d’Or

Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes, Hungarian actor Geza Rohrig and French screenwriter Clara Royer pose as they arrive for the screening of the film "Saul Fia" (Son of Saul) at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southeastern France, on May 15, 2015.

VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, we have an early front-runner for the 68th Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or. Son of Saul, the debut of 38-year-old Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes, has taken a profoundly difficult subject – the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau – and found a way of suggesting, through narrow focus and the corners of the square frame, and a multi-layered soundtrack in competing sounds and languages, a modern vision of hell that has consistently challenged any kind of ethical depiction. The film is shown mostly through the point of view of a Jewish prisoner, Saul Auslaender (Geza Rohrig), who is a member of the Sonderkommando (inmates who oversaw the gas chambers and cremation ovens). Saul discovers a corpse of a boy he says is his son and is determined to find a rabbi who can say Kaddish and give the boy a proper burial, risking his own life and that of other inmates in the effort. All this takes place against the background of a planned breakout by a small group of inmmates, with rumours of Soviet troops in nearby Krakow. Not since 2007, when Cristian Mungiu's Romanian drama, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, has an unknown film had such an intense effect at Cannes, and there are few if any films that manage to balance a refusal to blink at atrocity without any suggestion of exploitaiton.

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