László Nemes’ critically-acclaimed Son Of Saul is this year’s movie that you probably need to watch even though you’re well aware that it’s going to seriously bum you out. The Hungarian film follows a day and a half in the life of a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz as he goes about his duties as a Sonderkommando, disposing of gas chamber victims and witnessing all manner of atrocity. Because Nemes chose to photograph the action in the cramped Academy aspect ratio (1:375:1) and shoot mainly over the lead actor Géza Röhrig’s shoulder, with much of the horror relegated to the corners of the frame, the audience’s perspective stays closely tethered to the protagonist’s narrow POV.
The Hungarian film has won or been nominated for at least 22 awards, including an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s also made its way onto many critics’ top ten lists, and came thisclose to getting The A.V. Club’s year-end stamp of approval. Despite its impressive debut at Cannes, Son Of Saul hasn’t received a wide release, but Sony Pictures Classics did add 17 theaters to its run following the Oscar nomination, so maybe an Oscar win will eventually mean a theater in every state.