Katalin Balog in the New York Times:
Art is often the subject of philosophy. But every now and then, a work of art — something other than a lecture or words on a page — can function as philosophy. “Son of Saul,” a film set in Auschwitz-Birkenau during the Holocaust, is such a work of art. It engages with a profound set of problems that also occupied the 19th-century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.
Written and directed by the Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes, “Son of Saul” won awards at Cannes, the Golden Globes and elsewhere before making its way to the Oscars to win the award for best foreign language film. It follows a day in the life of Saul, a member of the Sonderkommando, a group of mostly Jewish prisoners the Nazis forced to assist with herding people to the gas chambers, burning the bodies and collecting gold and valuables from the corpses. The film creates a direct, experiential and visceral engagement with these events by maintaining a relentless focus on the minute-to-minute unfolding of Saul’s world.
In long, unbroken shots, we see the reality of the death camp revealed, its textures made tangible. By using close-ups and shallow focus images throughout, Nemes gives viewers no opportunity to disengage from Saul’s point of view. It is as though we are shadowing him in hell.