Trying to psychologize such symbolic characters would be pointless, and the viewer has no choice but to go with the slow, dreamlike flow of fixed-frame images. It is apparent that Sokurov and his young cameraman, Alexei Fjodorov, were inspired by German painting, especially the romantic landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich. Using a variety of techniques to alter the images, from deliberately misusing anamorphic lenses to inserting brooding clouds with an optical printer, they create landscapes evoking that favorite Russian mood of bittersweet nostalgia. The two characters are tiny brushstrokes in a larger composition, and the overall effect is that of fine art reproductions carefully sonorized with rolling thunder and birdcalls.
Pace, as in other Sokurov films, is slow, slow, slow. While other experimental filmmakers are keen to manipulate the temporal element of film, he simply waits for a train to pass in the distance, and when it is finally out of frame, the shot is just about over. Soundtrack is classical Glinka and Verdi.
It is interesting to note that, abstract as they are, Sokurov’s films end up recouping their low costs in the end, unlike most Russian movies. Attesting to the director’s international following, “Mother and Son” was made with German financing and shot partly in Germany.