Son of Saul

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Son of Saul Movie Poster Image
Powerful WWII concentration camp film is horrific, violent.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 107 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Reveals that even in the most wretched circumstances, people are capable of courage, righteousness, and commitment. Places great value on fighting for dignity and liberty against enormous odds. Shows how individuals willingly relinquish their humanity in a group setting; as a part of a mob or army, they are capable of barbarous acts of cruelty. Perseverance and teamwork are additional themes. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hero finds a spark of humanity in himself while in the presence of pervasive evil; he then calls upon hidden reserves of courage, resourcefulness, and love. Facing death, comrades in Auschwitz come together as a loyal team and exhibit bravery and a sliver of hope. Villainous Nazis are relentlessly inhumane.

Violence

Nazi atrocities throughout. Most catastrophic events are portrayed with sound and in the background of the shots rather than in direct focus. Large groups of Jewish prisoners are forced to strip and enter gas chambers; their agonized voices and pounding attempts at escape are palpable. Guards shoot inmates at random. In one horrific sequence, naked prisoners are chased into enormous pits, attacked by flame throwers and rifles; the sound of terror and pain accompanies the smoke-filled images. At all times, the concentration-camp prisoners are in fear for their lives and suffer humiliation and injury at the hands of their oppressors.

Sex

Extensive nudity without sexuality. Masses of naked inmates are herded to their deaths. Dead bodies (seen full frontal) are dragged across the ground in multiple scenes.

Language

Swearing and humiliating ethnic insults: "hell," "damn," "s--t," "bastard," "son of a bitch," "swine," "scum," "Jewish rat," "stupid."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional smoking in background.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Son of Saul is a Hungarian film with English subtitles that takes place in Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp. While the brutal story is told almost entirely through the eyes of one Jewish inmate, the magnitude of the crimes against all those imprisoned there is made very real. Most of the violence takes place either off camera or in the background of the film's frames, but the full impact of the atrocities comes from the sounds of terror and chaos that accompany the visual images. Inmates are brutally manhandled, forced to strip, shot, gassed, and burned to death. Fear is omnipresent. Nudity (including full-frontal nakedness) is shown as people are rounded up on their way to their deaths and as their dead bodies are retrieved. This movie succeeds in projecting some of the harshest realities of genocide; it's at the very least a cautionary tale. What's more, because of the talent of both filmmakers and the lead actor, it feels like a most accurate depiction of what may have happened during two days in October 1944. Winner of an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film in 2015, as well as more than 50 other prestigious awards, it's a movie that demands to be seen -- but not by kids.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybobward April 24, 2016
A horrowing and haunting film. Still, as a history piece and a means to truly understand the general atmosphere of the concentration camps, every teenager shoul... Continue reading
Parent of a 11 and 14 year old Written byGeorge Marshall May 4, 2016

Best holocaust film- but could be disturbing for some

The Holocaust is inherently disturbing, so really any film that deals with it well will be challenging and disturbing and extremely violent. But I also want my... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old April 28, 2016

Great and brilliant but disturbing film is graphic but not bloody.

My rating;R for some disturbing violent content, and nudity.
Teen, 17 years old Written byUsername101 December 12, 2016

NOWHERE near as bad as this review...

This review is garbage, in Australia the violence and nudity is only PG level... I have absolutely no idea why they would give this SUCH a high age rating while... Continue reading

What's the story?

Saul Auslander (Geza Rohrig) is a Sonderkommando in the Auschwitz death camp in October 1944 in SON OF SAUL. Sonderkommandos, Jewish prisoners forced to perform grisly and mind-numbing tasks, knew that they, too, would be executed in short order. Saul's duties are to assist in removing bodies from the gas chambers, search for valuables among the victims' clothes and possessions, and clean up the anteroom before the next terrified Jews arrive for mass slaughter. His mind and spirit already broken, Saul finds a still-breathing boy among the fallen. Though the child dies soon afterward, Saul decides that he must, above all else, provide this one innocent with a traditional Jewish blessing and burial. Driven by renewed energy and purpose, Saul risks his life over and over again to find a rabbi and lay the boy whom he proclaims his "son" to rest. At the same time, some of Saul's closest inmate brethren are planning an escape. Saul's obsession compromises their efforts. The two events collide amid heartbreaking chaos, danger, and merciless acts of cruelty.

Is it any good?

The full devastation of genocide, incomparable acts of cruelty, and humanity's ability to adapt to horror play out in the face of one man in this stunning, remarkable film. Other films have captured the Holocaust's atrocities and magnitude of heartlessness, but Son of Saul brings the more private moments of ravaged minds and souls to bear. The brilliance of Lazlo Nemes and his team comes from keeping Saul -- his face, his body, his point of view -- at the center of all (Rohrig's performance is shockingly real). While around him naked bodies are being dragged from the gas chamber to the ovens, while on the fringes of the frame his fellow prisoners go through the countless shoes, clothes, and personal effects of the victims, Nemes' camera is on Saul. And Saul is a study in the art of living while already dead. Some of the most savage acts happen mostly off camera or on the fringes of the shots, including the lengthy sequence of mass killing that takes place at the "pits" when the gas chambers are too crowded, which may be one of the most disturbing events in all cinema. This multiple award-winning film is hard to watch, and even harder to forget. Not for kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how director Lazla Nemes portrayed the horrors of Auschwitz while showing little direct violence in Son of Saul. How did he and his team use techniques such as sound effects, soft focus, and close-up reactions of Saul to recreate what would have been unfilmable and too graphic for audiences? Do you think the movie succeeded in evoking the grim reality of the camp?

  • Whether or not the dead boy was Saul's son was a question the movie raised. Did the identity of the boy matter? Why, or why not? What did he symbolize for Saul?

  • Think about both the relative absence of dialogue and color in this film. What did the filmmakers use instead of words to convey story and emotion? How did the colors used contribute to the overall character of the movie?

  • How do the characters in Son of Saul demonstrate courage, perseverance, and teamwork? Why are these important character strength?

Movie details

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love history

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate