The Zone Of Interest Movie Review: Sandra Huller Leads Disturbing Holocaust Drama That Examines Banality Of Evil

Jonathan Glazer's BAFTA award-winning feature depicts life at the infamous Auschwitz camps through the perspective of those who ran it, adding a chilling point of view to the saga. The German film releases in theatres from March 1.

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The Zone of Interest

Critic's Ratings

starstarstarstarstar

4.5

Drama,History

Release Date

Mar 1, 2024

Duration

1 hr 47 mins
The Zone Of Interest Movie Review Sandra Huller Leads Disturbing Holocaust Drama That Examines Banality Of Evil
The Zone Of Interest Movie Review: Sandra Huller Leads Disturbing Holocaust Drama That Examines Banality Of Evil

About The Zone of Interest

The Zone of Interest takes a completely different approach to the horrors that occurred at Auschwitz, Poland during the 1940s. Based on the life of camp commandant Rudolf H?ss and his family, Jonathan Glazer's feature views the daily horrors through their lens. It is a chilling and unforgettable take on the Holocaust; one that will linger with viewers much after you depart the theatre.

The Zone of Interest: Plot

Rudolf (Christian Friedel) and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) live an idyllic life with their five children outside of the Auschwitz work and death camps. The Hoss clan is the textbook German family unit described by Hitler and Rudolf oversees carrying the plans of the 'final solution'. Living next to the camps and sharing a wall, the Hoss family continues their daily routine without much incident. They celebrate birthdays, welcome relatives, and go on picnics. Later, Rudolf gets a promotion, and we learn of larger scale plans of the Nazis, with a matter-of-factness that is horrifying. The film's focus remains on the mundane and that is what makes it even more disturbing.

The Zone of Interest: Writing and Direction

As the film begins, we hear Auschwitz before we see it and from thereon, the sound rarely quiets. Except towards the end when the silence is poignant in its meaning. The sound design in The Zone of Interest is carefully constructed as noises from the surroundings permeate the day-to-day activities of the Hoss family. The sound of the train arriving with more people, the screams of agony and gunshots all pierce through their family life, but they go as expected.
Based on Martin Amis's book of the same name, writer-director Glazer uses a unique perspective to frame his shots mostly with hidden cameras inside the Hoss home. This gives us an unsettling feeling of being in on the action as we view Hedwig, the children and the rest of the staff go about their daily work. The cinematography by ?ukasz ?al is also deliberate and startling. At one instance, Rudolf stands by the family pool in the garden as the background shows the smoke coming out the chimneys at the Auschwitz crematorium.

The Zone of Interest: Performances

Friedel and Hüller are commanding in the portrayal of the Hoss couple. Friedel is quiet and creepy as Rudolf, his last scene that ends the movie is monumental in what it tries to relay, especially with the intercut scenes of Auschwitz in between. Anatomy of a Fall star and Oscar nominee Hüller once again proves why she is in the conversation as the best actress of 2023. Her Hedwig has grown accustomed to a way of life and not even the opinion of her mother will sway her. Both characters in her 2023 films have a strong connection with a loyal dog. Interestingly, the actress’s own dog was cast here, adding that extra level of neediness.

The Zone of Interest: Critique

Glazer's film has been awarded now at Cannes, BAFTA and is up for five Oscars at the Academy Awards next month, including Best Picture. The feature film is calculated in what it chooses to show. While most of the film is focused on the Nazis, we do not see any victims. But Glazer does include a perspective from a young Polish local who fights back in the only way she knows how. Those portions are also significant and add weight to the story.
The Zone of Interest juxtaposes the horrors of Auschwitz with regular domestic life, and it perturbs us how we view history then and now. It reminds us again of philosopher Hannah Arendt's fitting phrase 'the banality of evil' when used to describe the actions by the Nazis during the war. The Holocaust drama's focus does remain on the immense loss of life and humanity, but its point of view is one that will linger with audiences.
End of Article

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