The Zone Of Interest

The Zone Of Interest
Original title:The Zone Of Interest
Director:Jonathan Glazer
Running time:106 minutes
Release date:15 december 2023
Rudolf Höss, commandant of Auschwitz, and his wife Hedwig try to build a dream life for their family in a house with a garden near the camp.

Mulder's Review

Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest is a remarkable addition to the Holocaust film genre, taking a unique and innovative approach to a subject that has been explored from many different angles. In a landscape populated by films that often depict the atrocities of the Holocaust in explicit detail, Jonathan Glazer's work stands out for its subversion of expectations, delivering a quietly unsettling narrative that relies on suggestion and implication rather than explicit description.

From the very first sequence, Jonathan Glazer envelops the viewer in an inexplicable sense of unease. Two families having a seemingly innocent picnic by the river set the scene for what's to come - a juxtaposition of the serene and the sinister. This sinister atmosphere within the idyllic becomes the film's guiding tone, immersing the audience in an unsettling world that harbors secrets just beneath the surface.

The film centers on the Höss family, in particular Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), the real commandant of Auschwitz, and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller). Based on the novel of the same name by Martin Amis, Jonathan Glazer departs from the novel's central love triangle and focuses on the Höss family for the duration of the film. What makes this approach particularly convincing is Jonathan Glazer's decision not to fictionalize the characters. He uses real names and cleverly inserts today's Auschwitz museum into the fictional narrative, culminating in a finale that accentuates the idea that truth can be more horrifying than imagination.

Christian Friedel's portrayal of Rudolf Höss is both captivating and chilling. As Auschwitz's longest-serving commandant, his character embodies the stubborn pursuit of his own advancement, indifferent to the atrocities committed under his orders. Friedel's performance effectively captures the essence of an ambitious officer torn between his personal ambitions and the ruthless execution of orders from above.

Sandra Hüller's portrayal of Hedwig Höss is equally haunting. With an uncanny blend of unconsciousness and silent complicity, she is the "Queen of Auschwitz" in her own right - a lady of leisure who wilfully ignores the brutality that surrounds her. Hüller's ability to convey Hedwig's dual nature, from her nurturing façade to her underlying cruelty, adds depth and complexity to a character who represents the disturbing indifference that allowed such atrocities to unfold.

Jonathan Glazer's directorial choices further enhance the film's impact. He conceives the film as a still art installation, using framing and sound design to meticulously underline the perversities and human monstrosities that existed in the world of the Höss family. The absence of overt emotion and tension in the narrative serves to underline the unsettling power of understatement. The camera acts like a scalpel, dissecting the layers of inhumanity and oppression with clinical precision.

What really sets The Zone of Interest apart is its attention to the banality of evil. Jonathan Glazer delves into the psyche of individuals who willingly turn a blind eye to heinous acts, highlighting the passivity and complicity of those privileged enough not to be affected. The film is a stark reminder that the most horrific evils can manifest themselves in banality and everyday life.

In a cinematic landscape where accounts of the Holocaust often privilege explicit depictions of violence, The Zone of Interest takes a different path, emphasizing the power of implication and suggestion. By focusing on the detachment and indifference of the Höss family, the film becomes an indictment of the silent complicity of the privileged masses. It is a thought-provoking cautionary tale that resonates with the present and the future, urging viewers to confront the intolerance, apathy and dehumanizing forces that can thrive when confronted with silence.

The Zone of Interest is a meticulously crafted work of cinema that dares to approach a sensitive and difficult subject from a fresh angle. With its subtle narrative, haunting performances and art direction, Jonathan Glazer manages to disturb and provoke thought without resorting to gratuitous violence. The film's exploration of the banality of evil is a timely reminder of the importance of vigilance in the face of oppression and complicity, making it an important addition to the canon of Holocaust cinema.

The Zone of Interest (USA, United Kingdom, Poland)
Written and directed by Jonathan Glazer
Based on The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis 
Produced by James Wilson, Ewa Puszczyńska
Starring Sandra Hüller, Christian Friedel
Cinematography : Łukasz Żal
Edited by Paul Watts
Music by Mica Levi
Production companies: Extreme Emotions, Film4 Productions House Productions, Access Entertainment, JW Films
Distributed by A24 (United States), Gutek Film (Poland), Bac films (France)
Release dates : 19 May 2023 (Cannes), 8 December 2023 (United States), January 31 2024 (France)
Running time ; 106 minutes

Seen on September 7 2023 at Deauville international center

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