The Zone of Interest is probably one of the most bizarre films I’ll ever see, as we see commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) going about his daily tasks, leaving the house each morning to go to work, while wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller – Anatomy Of A Fall) looks after the house, tending to the garden and making everything shipshape.
However, their house is next door to the Auschwitz camp, and they seem completely desensitised to it, even to the point where – while the camera is in the foreground – you’ll sometimes not immediately notice what’s happening in the background, which includes rising smoke, plus the sounds of random gunshots and blood-curdling screams.
They just treat everything that goes on in such a matter-of-fact way, making it baffling that they just go with it. Meanwhile, various prisoners and jewish girls coming in to do the most basic of household tasks, so it’s not as if they’re not aware of it.
However, we know they are, as both abuse the staff, Hedwig once even lambasting one Jewish girl that he could turn her into ashes if she doesn’t do her job properly!
And when it comes to her getting the house the way she wants, yet hubby announces he’s due to be transferred away with his work and wants her to move with him, she’s up in arms because she can only think about herself and the fact her current abode has a large swimming pool.
Of some of the elements that gave me a hell of a shock, these included finding human bones found in the river, the fact that murdered prisoners have their houses and contents auctioned off by the Nazis, and when Hedwig’s mother comes to stay, but cottons on to what’s going on over the fence, doesn’t like it and can’t figure out how come everyone else can seemingly ignore it, but how to raise her objections?
A lot of what goes on in The Zone Of Interest can be heard, but is not shown. I figured they were going for the “tell, don’t show” method of storytelling, since the horrors have been brought to life more strongly in films like Son of Saul and Schindler’s List.
There’s one aspect I wasn’t sure about, but I read a potential explanation in a forum later on, so I’ll put this bit behind a spoiler banner:
However, despite the subject matter, I don’t want to say the film was bland or I got bored, but quite early on, you get the measure of the fact that Höss et al are aware they’re working and living right next door to Auschwitz, and that they’ve become comletely desensitised to it, but beyond that, the story doesn’t progress. It just happens, while next door happens. I can’t see why the critics went ape for it, but they often do with poor films in Oscar season. Anatomy of a Fall was another. The same actress is in both, Sandra Hüller, but she didn’t write/direct, so I can’t blame her.
As an aside, the first part of the film is just audio with the screen filled with a single colour. This goes on for about two minutes, but towards the end, a man started walking down the stairs, making me think it was a bit late to start using the toilet, and why didn’t he go ten minutes earlier? But then, the film starts showing the first scene proper, at which point he stopped dead in his tracks, waited a moment, and then went back to his seat, so obviously thought the film was broken.
The Zone of Interest is in cinemas now, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD. However, once announced, it will appear on the New DVD Blu-ray 3D and 4K releases UK list.
Running time: 105 minutes
Release date: February 2nd 2024
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (X-OCN ST(6K), Spherical)
Cinema: Cineworld Didsbury
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Producers: Ewa Puszczynska, James Wilson
Screenplay: Jonathan Glazer
Novel: Martin Amis
Music: Mica Levi
Rudolf Höss: Christian Friedel
Hedwig Höss: Sandra Hüller
Claus Höss: Johann Karthaus
Hans Höss: Luis Noah Witte
Inge-Brigitt Höss: Nele Ahrensmeier
Heideraud Höss: Lilli Falk
Annagret Höss: Anastazja Drobniak
Annagret Höss: Cecylia Pekala
Annagret Höss: Kalman Wilson
Elfryda: Medusa Knopf
Schwarzer: Max Beck
Bronek: Andrey Isaev
Young Polish Housemaid: Julia Babiarz
Sophie: Stephanie Petrowitz
Martia: Martyna Poznanski
Aniela: Zuzanna Kobiela
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Cleaners: Barbara Koszatka, Izabela Bara, Anna Kuwik, Mariola Karczewska, Halina Drzymota, Dominika Matonóg, Ewelina Kaczor, Matgorzata Zurek, Barbara Jakubowska, Etzbieta Bronka, Zuzanna Janusik
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.