Son of Saul, the winner of the Grand Prix at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, features Saul Auslander, a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner, played by Géza Röhrig, as a member of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Birkenau, forced to cremate the bodies of fellow prisoners gassed by the Nazis at the concentration camp.
When he wants to start realising his task he thinks he recognizes his son among the dead. Meanwhile other members of the Sonderkommando learn about their impending extermination, rise up and destroy the crematorium. Despite that, Saul keeps focused on his own plan to save his son’s corpse from the flames and find a rabbi to say Kaddish at a proper funeral.
“You know, the Holocaust has become over the years an abstraction. For me it’s more a face, a human face. Let’s not forget this face,” said director László Nemes said on accepting the award.
The film relates to the director’s family story. “A part of my family was assassinated in Auschwitz. It was something we talked about every day. When I was little, I had the impression that “evil had been done.” I imagined it like a black hole burrowed within us; something had broken, and my inability to grasp exactly what it was kept me isolated. I didn’t understand for many years. Then, the time came for me to reconnect with that specific part of my family’s history,” said Nemes in an interview.
Announcer Hellen Mirren said it was the first time a Hungarian film has ever won the award. Hungary was previously nominated twice, in 1989 for the World War II film Hanussen and in 1986 for Colonel Redl, but never won.
The Hungarian film was included on many critics’ year-end lists and for some time was considered a potential Best Picture Oscar nominee.
Last year, Polish Ida won the best foreign language Oscar.