The Phenomenology of Trauma. Sound and Haptic Sensuality in Son of Saul

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Abstract

The winner of many prestigious prizes (Oscar for the best foreign language film, Grand Prize of the Cannes Film Festival, and the Golden Globe among them), the Hungarian film, Son of Saul – according to most critics – represents the Holocaust trauma in a completely new and intriguing way. The filmmakers have invented a special form in order to tackle the heroic task of showing the unwatchable, representing the unthinkable. In this essay I analyse the representational strategy of the film from a phenomenological point of view, and position it in the theoretical framework of haptic sensuality formulated by Vivian Sobchack and Laura U. Marks, among others. I mainly focus on the use of sound, in particular the role of sound design in the creation of haptic space. With the help of the analysis of the representation and artistic invocation of the different bodily senses in the film, I demonstrate how traditional artistic formal elements (characteristic of highly artistic, even experimental productions) are combined with high impact effects often present in popular film forms. I argue that the successful combination of these two factors makes the film an example of artistic immersive cinema.1

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