Posts Tagged ‘Laszlo Nemes’

Juli Jakab

“SUNSET” My rating: B 

142 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Hungarian filmmaker Laszlo Nemes, who burst upon the world scene a couple of years back with the harrowing concentration camp drama “Son of Saul,” steps even further back in time with his sophomore effort, “Sunset.”

Shortly before the outbreak of the first world war, Irisz Leiter (Juli Jakab) returns to Budapest, where she was orphaned at the age of two.  Her goal is to get a job at the famous hat store founded by her late parents and which still bears her family  name..

Her return to the city of her birth sets off a series of puzzling and threatening events. Brill (Vlad Ivanov), the courtly current owner of Leiter’s, gives her a job making hats and seems  benevolent if businesslike. But Irisz starts getting odd vibes about the other young women working there, some of whom have disappeared with little trace.

A scary man appears in Irisz’s bedroom to threaten her; she learns that she has an older brother of whom she has been unaware, a notorious criminal leading a deadly anarchist gang.  In fact, this mystery sibling already has staged an assassination attempt on Brill.


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Geza Rohrig

Geza Rohrig

“SON OF SAUL” My rating: B+

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Holocaust movies are so ubiquitous that most of us simply tune them out.  First, they’re a downer and, second, haven’t we seen it all before?

Well, no. At least not in the case of “Son of Saul,” Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes’ first feature, which approaches the horrors of Hitler’s “final solution” from a unique and soul-rattling vantage point.

Our  “hero” is Saul (Geza  Rohrig), a member of a sonderkommando unit at a Polish death camp.  The sonderkommandos were Jews spared to do the dirty work for their German captors. After several months they, too, faced execution.

A typical day for Saul involves rising early, meeting a trainload of newcomer Jews, and herding them through the camp to the  death house (he’s like a blank-faced elementary school crossing guard).

There the condemned are told that before receiving a meal and job assignments they should disrobe for a shower. They are reminded to remember the number of the hook where they have hung their clothing.

Once these new victims have been locked inside the death chamber, Saul and his fellow workers try to ignore the screaming and pounding. They search the clothing for valuables. Later they will cart the bodies away to be burned and scrub away the blood and feces to make way for the next batch.

All this is depicted in one long, uninterrupted take.  It would be unbearable save for the presentational style Nemes has adopted.

Typically the only thing in focus is Saul’s face (sometimes the back of his head) which fills most of the frame.  To the right and left, blessedly out of focus, we can make out piles of naked bodies and screaming German guards.

It’s a brilliant visual representation of how sonderkommandos  like the inexpressive Saul avoid going mad:  They look straight ahead, try not to taken in details, try to see the soon-to-die not as individuals but as a weeping, shuffling mass.


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