Russia’s Spetsnaz, or special task force, is a cohort of young soldiers who continuously train in preparation for taking on enemies of the state. They pay tribute to fallen comrades killed in past conflicts, sometimes under mysterious circumstances.
In his film “The Son,” Russian-born filmmaker Alexander Abaturov chooses to ignore the whys and the hows of the high-stakes political game that is the cause of his country’s fractures. “The Son” isn’t about grasping the complexities of the game of war, but rather to go up the genealogical tree and take stock of the leftover lives broken by war, the ravage left in the wake of past conflicts. War, as it were, appears more as a general concept than an indictement of Russia’s powers-that-be.
Abaturov superimposes sequences of war-related rituals with images of his own grieving family. This tableau of loss that emerges from the fringes of privacy is cut with the images of a militaristic Russia. The proud attitude of the task force members is in contrast with a grieving mother, lost in her isolation. Images of the son of the title, collateral victim of a society that indoctrinates its charges with a love for the army, are given a kind of sanctity
This is Abaturov’s first feature-length documentary film. He made it in remembrance of a cousin, Dima, who died in combat in Dagestan while serving in the Spetsnaz in 2013. He was 21.