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Review: The Zone of Interest

Jonathan Glazer releases so few films, that each one feels like an event. This is partly due to the formal rigor he applies to each of his projects. In his new film, The Zone of Interest, the film is mostly shot with stationary cameras, mounted around a house, and controlled by camera operators. This creates a removal from the viewer of any kind of artificial perspective, a rare thing for a film dealing with the Holocaust.

Thematically, there is one question at the center of the film. How do you recognize evil and what do you do once you have? The film follows the family of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), whose family lives directly on the other side of the wall to where one of the most horrific genocides took place. However, what we see is a family, living in their dream home, trying to live a normal life. The matriarch (another stunning performance from Sandra Hüller) talks about vacations, tries on clothes, and takes her kids on picnics. For most of the film, very mundane household activities happen.

What Glazer does by removing any direct focus from the atrocities happening around the family is to make it impossible to think of anything else. It may take you a moment to dial into the occasional gunfire and screams in the background of the audio. You may not immediately notice the barbed wire surrounding the backyard or the ash that subtly covers things. In one break from the daytime activities of the family, we see a Jewish maid hide apples around the camp for prisoners through an eerie thermal lens.

The Zone of Interest is a remarkable feat as it seeks to create a cinematic language defined by omission. As we get bored with the proceedings of the Höss family, we must ask ourselves what horrors of the world we ignore in order to have a normal day. The family here is surrounded by horrors and refuses to ever acknowledge them. How to do we participate in a similar act? It creates a challenging watch, one that will stick with me for years I imagine.



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