The camera behind

Son of Saul, written by Laszlo Nemes and Clara Royer
directed by Laszlo Nemes

I dreaded seeing this film. Every trip to Auschwitz leaves me sick for days.  The subject is almost too much to be touched with a camera.  Regardless of the level of the craft employed.  

One day however I was taken to see this film.  The reaction noted below might be an extension of the just mentioned attitude.  When something is so much outside of one's ability to process and comprehend one can attempt to seek refuge in criticism of the aesthetics. 

Here is mine:

Son of Saul, with the exception of one dantean night sequence brining in your face with full harrowing force the Bosch like imaginary, has kept me confused. For surprisingly long gaps I felt out of the narrative. I wasn’t clear if I was supposed to feel with the hero or just watch his horror.

The immediate reason I think comes from too often placing the camera behind the hero’s back. Why don’t I see the face of the hero, I wondered many times. Then I learned that the main part was given to a rock musician/poet and a theologian.   Nothing wrong with basing a film on a non-professional actor but it carries certain limitations (unless one is David Bowie) and “Son of Saul” might be an example of them. To be fair, the musician playing the lead is doing fine as much as he can. But clearly when the task is too much (and the challenges of that role are huge), the director uses a substitutive camera technique, which when overdone, throws the experience of kilter.