Monday, 12 October 2015


Nemes Laszlo comes as close to capturing the horror of the Holocaust as any filmmaker before in capturing its hope, its fleeting, futile hope. Son of Saul is recreation rather than representation, a smart acknowledgement that it's not necessarily our place to learn from these horrendous events. They're not a history lesson, and certainly not for us - this is the victims' story, and Nemes' compassionate subjectivity places the blame for their pain and their sorrow back where it belongs. One man is all men in Son of Saul, though the film cannily keeps all other men and women in mind, wisely deducing the power of such singular, subjective expression, and successfully applying it. Saul's concern is one act of humanity, while suffering under and colluding in countless acts of heinous inhumanity; Nemes refuses to actively study the impulse that drives his protagonist's quest, and actor Rohrig Geza is no less enigmatic, and thus the film is less a history lesson than a humanity lesson, as relevant today as ever before. Technically, Son of Saul is masterful, a piece of formal experimentation that never feels like an experiment - the touch is so assured, its impact so absolute. The 35mm film flitters and diffuses focus, crafting in long, complex takes a disorientating, dangerous atmosphere around even the most mundane of actions, though to what extent any action is mundane under these circumstances is highly questionable. True to the filmmakers' intentions, this is a profound physiological experience, a horribly accurate recreation of a horrible period in the history of humanity. Its purview is narrow and its focus is unclear, but its greatest strength is its universality.