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Release Date: 01/12/24 [Cinemas]
Genre: Drama. History. War.

Studio: A24.

"Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife Hedwig strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden beside the camp." 


Disclaimer: This Review Mentions Nazism, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust

Much like what I said in my review for Killers of the Flower Moon on Cinefied, it's difficult to not only capture atrocity sensibly, but to also comprehend how something like the genocide of Native Americans or the Holocaust could happen. You have the dangers of glossing over vital historical facts, you run the risk of making your images feel exploitive and gross, and the audience could just not really understand the exact scale of the tragedy being displayed at hand. There are many films that depict the holocaust; some critically praised, and some infamous on how horribly the fumble the subject. There’s also so many films you could make about the Holocaust until there’s an actual point where cinema itself is exploiting the millions of deaths that occurred during this time. It’s a mighty mighty thin line to walk. 


In comes director Jonathan Glazer - with just his fourth feature in twenty-three years, The Zone of Interest proves to be not only one of his most formally radical feats of his filmography, but one of the most radical films to come out this decade even. There’s two different stories going on in the film; a banal display of Commandant Rupert Hoss and his family as he runs the Auschwitz concentration camp. Hoss and his wife Hedwig raise their family, swim in their pond, and even host house parties next to the camp where we hear the awful screams of the thousands and thousands of people being slaughtered just over the garden wall. It’s harrowing to say the least, but masterfully done. There’s many implications of the things we don’t see; not just the screams from the camp, but casual mentions of mass murder, figuring out logistics in murdering as many people as fast and as efficiently as possible, as well as other countless evil acts committed at the hands of the nazis.


It’s scary just how these human vessels casually, and almost happily, talk about committing these atrocities. The film itself has no interest in even showing the suffering, one must wonder how these actors feel talking about how they’re going to enact it. Glazer’s wonderfully commenting on cinema’s ethical and moral dilemma in displaying atrocity and evil.  Not only as a formal piece is it experimental, striking and meta, but as a performance piece it’s quite engaging and exceptional. Christian Fridell delivers a stone cold, but mighty reflective lead performance for such a soulless and evil character. There’s a lot of responsibility in portraying a Nazi - let alone one of the key orchestrators of the Holocaust - so Glazer and Fridell make a collaborative effort to be as transparent as possible in just how atrocious and vile these people really are. So, one moment concluding the film makes the film's statements and meditations come together seamlessly. They're among the quieter moments of the film, but they ring incredibly loud long after viewing the film.

Of his body of work, you’ll get something else entirely from Glazer’s four features. However, with The Zone of Interest, you’re getting an anomaly within cinema itself.  A meditation on the worst event of the 20th century that never shines away from the disgusting acts carried out during the Holocaust. However, it’s so formally radical in delivering a meta narrative that contemplates cinema’s complacency in our desensitization to atrocity - not just the Holocaust, but modern atrocities. Despite us never seeing the suffering, we’re never compartmentalized from it like the Hoss family is. They view their home and garden as a paradise, though all know something incredibly sinister is just within feet of their own house. The Zone of Interest is a mortifying, important ring to the ears that we simply just cannot cover our ears from.

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