The Festival de Cannes screened Son of Saul about the Shoah by Hungarian director Laslo Nemes and The Lobster by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos.
Science-fiction by Yorgos Lanthimos – Competition – 1H58
Love makes lovers blind, as everyone knows, but in Yorgos Lanthimos’ near future recounted in The Lobster, a love story may bring blindness as a punishment…
Are you more “City” or… “Woods”?
There are two worlds in Lanthimos’ film: The City where you have to live and go around with a “partner” and The Woods, where the Loners on the loose are hunted with tranquilizer guns. In The City, the relationships in couple are compulsory and Loners are controlled by the police. In the Forest, on the contrary, flirting, kissing and sexual relations are prohibited by the rules issued by the Loners’ chief (Léa Seydoux).
The Hotel brings you love or animality
In between, stands The Hotel, where the single persons are to be rehabilitated. The City’s single persons are transferred to the Hotel. They are given 45 days to find a matching mate. Failing will see them transformed into an animal of their choosing through a process at the Transformation Room. They may after be sent to a zoo, become a pet or be released in The Woods.
Peculiar methods for matching people
At The Hotel David (Colin Farrell) experiments the peculiar methods used to bring people closer together and to prove life is better as a twosome. The animal of his choice is the lobster because “it can live 100 years while keeping its fertility and has blue blood like the aristocrats”. Everybody is desperate to find a mate despite the lack of love and some try to cheat, pretending matching defaults like nose bleeding or a limp. David will prefer the life in The Woods, where he will fall in love with a women (Rachel Weisz), short-sighted like him. But both see still too much…
A very original screenplay
The original, crazy, wild universe filled with dark dry humor of The Lobster surprised La Croisette. Yorgos Lanthimos wrote the screenplay and the dialogues with Efthimis Filipou and served it well with a rather sober camera treatment, using some well-chosen backlights. The 42-year old Greek enters the Competition in Cannes for the first time after two awards for his feature films: the Prix Un Certain Regard for Canine in 2009 and the Screenplay Award for Alps in Venice in 2011.
John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, Ariane Labed and Angeliki Papoulia complement the brilliant casting.
Son of Saul
By Laslo Nemes – Hungary – 1h47
The Hungarian director Laslo Nemes has filmed the terrible daily industry of death in the Auschwitz camp and Saul’s relentless quest for a rabbi as he wants to bury his – perhaps imaginary – son.
Nothing is spared of the sordid different stages of the Nazi’s slave labor done by the Sonderkommando in the industry of death implemented at Auschwitz. The Sonderkommando, nicknamed “Geheimnisträger” – the secret holders, were deportees recruited by the SS to lead the Jews into the gas chamber, take away the body become “Stücken” – pieces – before burning them. Knowing that this very fate was looming shortly…
In search of a rabbi
In October 1944, Saul Ausländer recognizes his son in the adolescent survivor of the gas chamber but quickly dispatched by a “doctor”; or believes to recognize him… At the price of terrible efforts involving his life and that of his comrades, he subtracts the body to the crematorium to bury him according to the rites of his faith in the presence of a rabbi. And he starts looking for a rabbi, forgetting “the living to benefit of the dead.”
A permanent chaos atmosphere
To prevent the “production” of this factory of death to be an indecent show, the director filmed the action in a small, almost square format, with a blurred and nebulous background: we make out the atrocities without really seeing them. From beginning to end, the characters are in motion, punctuated by the incessant barking of orders and dogs, cries, harsh noises, shooting, creating an atmosphere of visual and audible swirling chaos in which Saul is moving, risking his life at any time.
Sometimes the camera follows the red cross in the back of Saul – that differentiates him from the Jewish promised to extermination – in the manner of a war reporting.
Journey into the “Final Solution”
In this year of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Saul (the excellent Géza Röhrig) takes us on a wrenching journey into the heart of the “Final Solution”, shown for the first time in such a strong and shocking way. To restore the bit of humanity that survives in him, he who says nothing to the deportees who believe a shower is preceding a hot soup, he who takes part in the unimaginable to put off his end, Saul is obsessed by burying his son.
Son of Saul is the first feature film by Laslo Nemes who lost part of his family in Auschwitz. It thus also contributes to the Camera d’Or. This masterpiece that marks Cannes will certainly leave with a great price.
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