Son of Saul - Blu-ray Cover.jpg

Distributor: Sony Pictures

Release Date: April 26, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 107 mins

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 Hungarian DTS-HD Master Audio (Various Languages

Alternate Audio: 5.1 English Audio Description Track

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

Ratio: 1.37:1

Notes: This disc includes an Ultraviolet copy of the film. A DVD edition of this film is also available.

“It’s trying to give an immersive experience to the viewer by coexisting with the main character… In this way, we can emphasize his individual experience, not jumping around with different points of view, to make things more easily understood by the audience.” – László Nemes (Hollywood Reporter)

Critics have hailed Son of Saul as one of the best films of 2015, and they may very well be right. The film is remarkable not only for it’s one of a kind style, but also for the human story that it has to tell. If special attention is often shown to its unusual aesthetic, it is because this aesthetic enhances the story that it tells.

It is October, 1944 in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Saul (Géza Röhrig) is a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando (the group of Jewish prisoners forced to assist the Nazis). While working, Saul discovers the body of a boy he takes for his son. As the Sonderkommando plans a rebellion, Saul decides to carry out an impossible task: save the child’s body, find a rabbi to recite the mourner’s Kaddish, and offer the boy a proper burial.

László Nemes creates a universe that is at once narrow and vast. While the camera stays with our protagonist throughout the entire duration of the film, there is a horror show constantly playing out just past the edges of every frame. The result is that the audience is never quite certain what horrors might step into the frame to threaten Saul. This effect is further enhanced by the narrower aspect ratio of the film’s cinematography (1.37:1). The film is therefore given a more human dynamic, because we experience the horrors much like Saul experiences them. The film begins with Saul carrying out his horrifying daily duties with the same detachment one might expect a factory worker to carry out his business. Apathy is his only defense against such atrocities. However, the death of a young boy awakens something within him. Saul spends the rest of the film trying to earn back some of the humanity that he has lost. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that Saul slips into a kind of merciful madness that gives him back this humanity. Viewers that don’t appreciate a certain amount of ambiguity in their narratives might do well to skip the film, because Nemes certainly has no intention of spoon-feeding his audience.

It seems no wonder that Son of Saul won the Academy Award®, Golden Globe® and Independent Spirit Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film. In addition to these prestigious awards, the film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and was named the Best Foreign Language Film by associations including the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. The accolades seem endless, and one expects that it will gather even more now that it is available on Home Video.

Theatrical One Sheet

The Presentation

3.5 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in a standard Blu-ray case with the film’s one sheet artwork (altered slightly to include awards and review blurbs), and the case is protected by a special slip cover with the same artwork. It is pleasing to see that Sony Pictures Classics utilized the original one sheet art for this release (even if one might prefer they use the version without all of the critical praise).

 The menu utilizes the same artwork and is accompanied by an excerpt from the film’s music.

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Mátyás Erdély’s celluloid cinematography is well represented in Sony’s Blu-ray transfer. There is a nice layer of film grain that adds an organic quality to the proceedings without becoming distracting. There is no noticeable noise or digital anomalies to distract the viewer, and this remains true in the darker scenes. Contrast is accurately represented here as well, as is the color balance. Actually, it is difficult to find any room for complaint.

Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The film’s sound design is an especially important element of the film, and Sony’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio does the film justice. There are a million subtle sounds that bring the viewer (and listener) into Saul’s world at any given moment, and this 5.1 track adds to this immersive experience without calling unnecessary attention to itself. The film’s minimal dialogue is well prioritized and always clear (even when the characters whisper to one another). Again, there doesn’t seem to be any room for legitimate complaint about this wonderful sound mix.

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Commentary with László Nemes (Director), Géza Röhrig (Actor) and Mátyás Erdély (Cinematographer)

This commentary track with the film’s director, principal actor, and cinematographer isn’t the most engaging commentary in the world, but it should certainly add to the viewer’s appreciation of the film.

Museum of Tolerance Q&A with director László Nemes, actor Géza Röhrig and cinematographer Mátyás Erdély – (01:03:27)

This discussion with László Nemes, Géza Röhrig, and Mátyás Erdély is a rather dry conversation, but it covers a lot of territory. Nemes discusses the concept and inspiration in a very general way while Erdély enlightens viewers about the film’s technical challenges. Röhrig is a bit more scholarly and has more to say about the actual Holocaust than the film itself. However, he does talk briefly about acting in the film. Fans of the film will find it well worth watching.

Deleted Scene: Return from the River – (02:05)

Deleted Scenes are always a welcome addition to any Blu-ray disc. Sony has only included one such scene here (complete with the slates) in raw form. It is happy to see it included here, but one understands why it was cut from the final film.

Final Words:

 

Son of Saul is one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2015. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but audiences that are fascinated by ambiguities will find plenty of nourishment to feed their own interpretations. It isn’t a particularly pleasant experience, but it is certainly interesting. Sony’s Blu-ray provides an attractive transfer and the supplementary materials are better than those found on many discs.

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