Daughter of saul, or saul leanya: The gendered place of atrocity in László Nemes’s son of saul
Source of Publication
László Nemes's 2015 production, Son of Saul (Saul fia), is one of the most critically acclaimed Holocaust movies to date. The film disrupts canonical notions of visual representation of the special squads of Jewish inmates, or Sonderkommando, forced to work in the crematoria. Simultaneously, it radically re-genders an exceptional survival scene recorded as autobiographical truth by witness testimony. A young Hungarian girl's survival of a Zyklon B gassing became exceptional among other incidents of survival in Auschwitz-Birkenau due to the medical assistance offered and the resuscitation administered by the Hungarian medical doctor of the crematoria, Miklos Nyiszli. Son of Saul effectively swaps the body of this teenage girl with the body of a boy in order to re-create a foundational patrilineal story of powerful ideological impact and legitimating force. Pursuing a project of reestablishing a hegemonic male discourse over the Holocaust, the film also portrays a female inmate as one of the four women who made the 7 October 1944 Sonderkommando revolt in Auschwitz-Birkenau possible by smuggling in the explosives for the insurgents. Ella's disconcerting neediness in the film seems uniquely misplaced onto a woman tortured by the Gestapo and hanged without having betrayed her accomplices. While Son of Saul offers its own remarkably successful solutions and modes of cinematic transcendence portraying the ultimate sites of extermination, it does not convey an adequate understanding of gender relations transformed by the historical context of the Final Solution and the vital role of women in the Jewish resistance to the Nazi-orchestrated genocide.
Duke University Press
Arts and Humanities
Holocaust, Jewish resistance, László Nemes, Sonderkommando, Son of Saul
Haragos, Szidonia, "Daughter of saul, or saul leanya: The gendered place of atrocity in László Nemes’s son of saul" (2021). All Works. 4630.
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