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The Zone of Interest

JONATHAN GLAZER‘s THE ZONE OF INTEREST is remarkable. It’s released in UK cinemas this week, and I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about it. It’s one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen in a long time. If you get chance to see it, please do. It’s brave, original, important, and depressingly relevant.

The commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, and his wife Hedwig, strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp.

According to the director, THE ZONE OF INTEREST is two films – one that you watch, and another that you hear. Based on a novel by MARTIN AMIS, the subject of the film is one of the darkest chapters in human history. Told almost exclusively from the perspective of the Nazis, the film shows the grotesque normality of life for the commandant of Auschwitz’s family, brazenly going about their day-to-day business while, on the other side of the garden wall, hundreds of thousands of people are put to death.

The film is shot in a deceptively simplistic manner. A house very close to the actual camp was painstakingly restored, and fitted with hidden cameras so the director and crew could work remotely, filming in an unobtrusive manner similar to reality TV programmes, allowing them to capture realistic, semi-improvised performances from the cast. The house and the family is the main focus of the film, and save for a few distant shots and other glimpses, we’re shown very little of the concentration camp. But, by god, you can hear it. There’s a constant soundtrack of screams, shouted orders, dogs barking, gun shots, and other nightmare noises. An excellent, experimental score by MICA LEVI adds to the disorientation and unease.

This is a film you’ll find yourself thinking about over and over after you’ve watched it. Without ever being sensationalist or heavy handed, it uses the camera’s unblinking eye to show people’s ability to put their own self-interest above absolutely everything (and everyone) else. Don’t go into this thinking it’s just a film about World War II, because it’s not. It’s about a facet of individual human nature that, sadly, continues to have a disproportionately negative influence on society today.

THE ZONE OF INTEREST is a masterpiece. Please see it.