The visceral Holocaust drama “Son of Saul” has won the Oscar for best foreign language film at the 88th Academy Awards — the second Oscar winner for Hungary.
“Even in the darkest hours, there might be a voice within us that allows us to remain human,” a deeply moved László Nemes said in his acceptance. “That is the hope of this film.”
“Son of Saul,” co-written by Nemes and Clara Royer, is set in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. It stars Géza Röhrig as a member of the prisoner detail forced to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims.
“Thanks to the Academy for this incredible honor,” Nemes said at the start of his speech. “Thank you to Sony Pictures Classics, Tom Bernard, Michael Barker for supporting us. Thanks to Hungary for funding this film. I want to share this with Geza Rohrig, my main actor, and the incredible cast and crew that believed in this project when no one else did.”
“Son Of Saul” won over Jordan’s “Theeb,” Denmark’s “A War,” Colombia’s “Embrace Of The Serpent” and France’s Turkish drama “Mustang.”
The film premiered in May at the Cannes film Festival, where it won the Grand Prize. It also won the Golden Globe for best foreign language film, the first Hungarian film to win the award, and took the Spirit Award on Saturday.
“Son of Saul” is the ninth Hungarian film to be nominated for the Oscar and the first one since István Szabó’s “Hanussen” in 1988. István Szabó’s “Mephisto” won the Oscar in 1981.
In Variety’s review of the film, critic Justin Chang calls “Son of Saul” “as grim and unyielding a depiction of the Holocaust as has yet been made on that cinematically overworked subject — a masterful exercise in narrative deprivation and sensory overload that recasts familiar horrors in daringly existential terms.”