THE ZONE OF INTEREST Is an Extraordinary Film, But Is A Very Difficult One to Watch

From writer/director Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest is an incredibly outstanding movie but is challenging to endure. The film takes place in Auschwitz during World War II. That sentence alone should raise some red flags about the troubling subject matter. It did for me when I sat down for this press screening late last year.

However, the unexpected thing was that I had no idea why this film would be difficult to watch. Based on our experiences with other Holocaust movies such as Schindler’s List, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, etc., it is easy to have some preconceived notions about what to expect. Glazer defies all of these and delivers a film that presents disturbing content boldly differently.

The year is 1943, and Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller), and their children live comfortably in a lovely home next to the concentration camp. The film depicts the family’s day-to-day lives, primarily focussing on the most mundane and uneventful activities. Meanwhile, while the Höss family members happily live their lives, the most horrible atrocities occur within the camp next door, sometimes within earshot of the family.

Honestly, I had difficulty developing a good synopsis for this movie. I don’t want to reveal too much; I feel this film is best experienced with as little information as possible. When I said that Glazer takes a bold new approach to presenting this kind of story, I mean that he mostly keeps the focus on the German family and not so much on the Jewish prisoners executed regularly in the camp. This new approach shows the apathy and disdain that a lot of the Germans/Nazis had toward their work and the atrocities they committed.

This approach often makes the movie intentionally unbearable, as the filmmaker intends to critique the apathy and blind eyes often expressed toward all kinds of horrible things that happen in the world. Glazer wants his audience to feel uncomfortable, frustrated, and floored by his movie. It is a carefully and skillfully crafted piece of cinema that he and his cast worked exceptionally to deliver. It is a vital piece of art that everyone should watch at least once. I cannot see anyone wanting to experience the film more than once.

The Zone of Interest is now in theaters and is a highly recommended movie. I cannot see it as the cure-all for human apathy, but it is a wake-up call for those who need it the most.

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