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Movie Monday – Will ‘Son of Saul’ be the third foreign language film on death and dying to win the Oscar since 2008?

As this year’s Oscars draw near, and on this movie Monday, we feature three Foreign Language films on death and dying. Two have already won an Oscar, and the third has been nominated.  The first is the 2008 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, ‘Departures’, followed four years later by the 2012 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner, ‘Amour’, and now again, four years later, will Oscar nominated ‘Son of Saul’ be the 2016 winner of Best Foreign language film?
Before we continue with reviews of these three films, we wanted to proudly and with great excitement acknowledge Géza Röhrig, who has been a ‘Shomer’ (watcher) at Plaza for 15 years, and as you can read about in a recent New Yorker article, is also the star of ‘Son of Saul’! How Stephanie Garry, Chief Administrative Officer of Plaza discovered this, is a great story in and of  itself as you can read here.
As for the first of our three films, we start with ‘Departures’, a Japanese film that deals with death and dying in a decidedly light-hearted way. The story revolves around a cello player who’s lost his job, but lands another, with no prior experience, preparing the dead for funerals. An underlying theme is how the Japanese deal with death, with the focus on the survivors. As one critic put it: “Watching ‘Departures’ again most recently, I was reminded of these words spoken in Errol Morris’s ‘Gates of Heaven’ when he said: …life is for the living and not for the dead so much”.
Next, ‘Amour’, a French film, deals with death and dying by bringing to light the plight of an aging couple as they face end of life care options and finally death. The film’s writer and director, Michael Haneke, told the Village Voice: “the film has a universal timeliness to it because old age awaits us all. It’s inevitable.”
Finally our third film, the 2016 Oscar nominated ‘Son of Saul’, a Hungarian film, is about dealing with death and dying at a concentration camp. The story is set in the fall of 1944, and is told through the eyes one Saul Ausländer who is Hungarian and a member of what was called the Sonderkommando. This group of Jewish prisoners had the unthinkable job of leading fellow prisoners to their deaths and then disposing their remains into crematoriums. In the story Saul comes upon a boy who he thinks of as his son, and is driven to arrange for a proper Jewish burial for him.
Stay tuned for the Academy Awards on Sunday to see if ‘Son of Saul’ wins the Oscar.
Check out the Movie Reviews below:
Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Son of Saul
Rotten Tomatoes

Click here to see list of Foreign Films on Death, Dying and Grieving

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