Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Presence of Evil

A scene from the film 'Son of Saul' (Cannes Film Festival)
 
I really don't follow the Cannes Film Festival all that closely even though it is the premier gathering for motion pictures in the world. This year a French filmmaker, Jacques Audiard, took home the Palme d'Or for Dheepan, a crime drama about a Sri Lankan Tamil warrior who flees to France.
The Grand Prix award, which is second place, went to Laszlo Nemes' Son of Saul. Apparently both of these films, while very different, are about evil and do an exceptional job of exploring the subject. Son of Saul is set in a World War 2 extermination camp and this is the plot outline:
 
It is early October, 1944. Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz works as a Sonderkommando member, burning the dead. One day he finds the body of a boy he takes for his son. He tries to salvage the body from the flames, and find a rabbi to arrange a clandestine burial. Meanwhile other members of the Sonderkommando learn about their impending extermination, rise up and destroy the crematorium. Saul keeps focused on his own plan to pay the last honours to a son he never could take care of before.
 
Those who have seen the film describe it as harrowing, and claim that it  is unprecedented in the way it looks at the experience of those camps. Finding ways to explore the nature of evil are important because we witness it everywhere: in the barrel-bombing of innocents in Syria, the physical and psychological abuse of women and children, the torture of prisoners in order to obtain information, to name a few examples. Of course religion has its share of evil, including the exploitation of children through sexual abuse.
 
I will probably try to see one or both of these films eventually, although it won't be easy.
 
Do you believe in evil as a malevolent reality in our world? Have you experienced it? Would you watch a film which explores evil?

1 comment:

Judy McKnight said...

One only has to watch the daily news to be convinced of evil... and I probably would not choose to watch one of these films...unless there is an overwhelming sense of the redemption and some kind of Holy Presence to ease the pain of the evil...