Son of Saul
Son of Saul is a gripping and horrifying drama that ingeniously uses its camera to engross you in this grotesque hell on a very intimate level. The camera practically hovers over the shoulder and back of Saul, often aimed directly at his face as he walks and acts throughout Auschwitz in long takes. We are here with him, beside him and behind him. The background is blurred and out of the focus, we see and hear the horror, but just barely, just enough.
The camera is Saul's mindset and perspective, him trying to not see, to cope through dissociating and numbness, except for when he can't. An early moment has him bumping into an officer; Saul instinctively snaps to attention, takes off his hat, and the world around him comes back into focus as if suddenly he's aware of everything in that moment. And then the moment passes, his head and eyes droop down again, the world blurs. It's an effective use of the camera for storytelling means.
This closeness and perspective only reinforces the intimacy of the story; Son of Saul follows the titular Saul, a Sonderkommando seeking to bury the body of his son in early October 1944. That is his laser-focused purpose, his drive over the concise two-day timeline of the movie, and it's through this journey that we follow him, that we see the methodical industrial horror of Auschwitz; in a way, I was reminded of Nolan's Dunkirk, and how that movie used its stories to represent a microcosm of the experiences of those involved in the rescue. Here, while we only see a narrow sliver through Saul's intense perspective, we can feel the larger scope of the evil that his story moves through. It's always oppressively inescapably in the background, no matter where he goes. This is no soundtrack here, only the incessant cacophony of death and misery.
Son of Saul deserves to be considered up there with Schindler's List, The Pianist, Band of Brothers' Why We Fight, and other praised movies/episodes about the Holocaust. Its unique perspective, very personal story, and unflinching yet tasteful portrayal of Auschwitz's atrocities makes it a difficult but compelling and important watch