Today was a unique day for me. It was the first day since my actual first day at the London Film Festival, this very Sunday two years ago, when I saw only one film. Last year’s trip was a stressful mess at times, as I strove to cram my schedule with as many titles as possible. I’ve cut back a little this year, being more selective about the films I’m seeing, and striving now to make the best possible use of what time I have here. It’s mainly for my boyfriend tbh – Thomas doesn’t deserve to have his time at the fest characterised solely by periods of frantic panic and periods of soul-sapping boredom as I sit at my laptop writing up some obnoxious judgement on one film after another.
Never mind that I allowed myself an extra 30 minutes this morning to get through those write-ups more calmly – there was still a ridiculous rush to Curzon Soho for my one and only film of the day, Hungarian director László Nemes’s Son of Saul. I’m definitely going to keep going on about this: one film today, literally just one film. It’s like I’m at home. It’s just so average. And at 1pm! I feel so staid, so plain, so dispiritingly normal. Thomas and I were seated in the front row, all the better to get a good look at László, who is bae but needs to sell that Grand Prix on ebay stat for some better clothes because he’s rly got it, in a kind of meek, nerdy, Central European way.
This isn’t a fashion review, however, it’s a film review, or something similar: Son of Saul is very good, as good as you’ve read. Nemes is a first-time director of feature-length films and has a fine education in filmmaking from the master of masters, his tragically retired countryman Tarr Béla. He’s got an understandable desire to experiment, and an equally understandable flair for it. The film doesn’t strike you for its philosophical depth nor its psychological complexity, but its power and its purpose are just as profound as anything Tarr has made, which are as philosophically and psychologically rich as any film you’re likely to see. It’s an internal, subjective perspective on a time in history too often regarded with ponderous detachment; Son of Saul is perhaps the most accurate recreation of the Holocaust I can recall in film. It’s recreation, not representation.
Nemes’ ensuing Q&A was as enlightening as I’d expected, and it contributed further strata of appreciation on my account. Not that anything new was revealed to me, more that the director, accompanied by one of the film’s principal cast members Molnár Levente, was able to articulate my opinions about the film better than even I had been myself, and able to explain why I’d actually formed those opinions. He told the audience of his desires in making the film, which he struggled to finance, desires that provide perfect clarity for anyone searching for a specific interpretation on Son of Saul. It’s a corrective film, emphasising the true, appropriate placement of blame for the Holocaust not on the victims but on the perpetrators, stressing a sense of verisimilitude in the chaotic combination of chaos and order in the concentration camps, depicting the deprivation of innocence in the Sonderkommando Saul, played by Röhrig Géza, in his collusion in his own destruction, and thus suggesting a notion of what Nemes referred to as ‘the suicide of Europe’, a notion that carries particular profundity given Hungary’s recent deplorable actions against refugees (and those of many other nations both in and outside Europe). He expressed a disdain for the widescreen, poverty-porn fantasy of other Holocaust films, explaining that he wanted a physiological experience for his viewers, an intimate and unforgiving one, relating this to his decision to shoot on film. He compared this screening, which was on delicious 35mm film, to the film’s previous screening at LFF, which was on digital, and that was where the real disdain crept in. I harbour sympathy for those filmmakers trying to keep alive the art of shooting and projecting on film, though I certainly couldn’t agree with this one filmmaker’s assertion that the decline in this technique represents ‘the first regression in the history of cinema’. For many reasons, that’s a fairly ignorant and elitist notion to float, though a typically elitist-looking audience greeted that statement with the biggest applause I’ve yet heard at the festival.
Fuck that, there’s a whole day to be had from here on out. A whole day and a whole night, and a whole lot of booze. Thomas and I met with one of his friends from his time at university and her boyfriend and we spent a couple of hours with beers and banter in a nearby pub, which was more reasonably-priced than I’d expected. They left around 6pm, given that they’re normal people and had to get home because it’s a Sunday evening and that’s what normal people normally do; Thomas and I aren’t feeling especially normal, so we indulged in a rather less reasonably-priced Chinese dinner in Chinatown, and indulged further in a night at G-A-Y that just kept getting later and later. You’ve got the pictures to prove it now, or at least the ones I’m comfortable with exposing to humanity. Gin is just way too easy to drink. Chinese meals are just way too salty. As I write this diary entry, I’m way too dehydrated to go into detail, but it was a worthwhile night out, primarily because they played B*Witched, and there’s just about nothing an Irish gay boy loves more than a spirit and B*Witched.
A unique day is about to become rather less unique – wisely, there’s again only one film tomorrow (or today, as I write this), and it’s gloriously late: a screening of Robert Eggers’ horror movie The Witch at 6:30. Not a day of drinking ahead, but a day of shopping!!!!1!!!!!11!1!!! J J J J J