Evading the propriety of linking aesthicism with a film on the holocaust, it is undeniable that this is a work of art. The foulness has been best conveyed in Pasolini's Salo 1979, Son of Saul is stunning from the first shot as we, the viewers, are parachuted to the centre of action as a fresh convoy with its human "cargo" is being herded into the gas chamber. Immediately we are plunged into a world of paralyzed terror. Families with children holding fingers are quickly herded with smooth promises of work, soup and bathing. The cinematic POV is that of Saul Auslander, a sondercommando. The first shot is hazy and out of focus crystallizing into the chaotic sounds and visuals. It is a picture of chaos both in the environment and the mind of Saul. The machinery of the camp, itself a masterwork of satanic ingenuity, moves with brisk efficiency. More than anything the film is a masterly narrative of interwoven sounds: barking orders, shrieks, guns, dogs, clangs and thuds. The visuals are unclear and barely decipherable: it is the sounds that tell the hypnotic tale. It is a tonal poem.
The film is idealistic at core, as Saul, throughout the film, frenziedly searches for a rabbi to perform the last rites on the body of a teenage boy he has improbably chosen to believe is his son. He makes this his driving goal. This is what causes the glow of the spirit in this pit of degradation.This is what makes it the antithesis of the redemption less The Grey Zone which had the same scenario. This point the director declared emphatically in an interview.
The director is a mere 39, having experienced this strip of time through the loss of close family members. His mother told him her self experienced unsparing truth at the age of five, and, in his own words, the holocaust is genetically imprinted in him. The film is mesmeric, unlike anything I have seen. A masterpiece mature like Picasso's greatest painting. The subject deserves treatment more merciless like Pasoloini's Salo: 120 days of Sodom. Maybe it,s more about human triumph than about a death camp. Hope is more absolute than despair even in this worst of settings. After all the film is rightly titled after the son, not the father.
Director: Laszlos Nemes