The Zone of Interest
Starring Sandra Hüller Christian Friedel and Ralph Herforth
In “The Zone of Interest,” director Jonathan Glazer delves into the darkest chapters of human history with an unflinching and haunting portrayal of a family of strivers creating a better life for themselves and their family in the shadow of the Holocaust. Glazer’s film takes a different path than many other Holocaust films by focusing on how easily humanity adapts to evil situations, a theme explored chillingly and effectively.
The film opens with a deceptive scene of tranquility—a sunny pastoral landscape where children play in a lake and parents relax in grassy fields. This idyllic setting is juxtaposed with the knowledge of the horrors that will unfold, setting the tone for the rest of the film. Glazer’s decision to begin with such a serene scene is a powerful commentary on the stark contrast between the natural beauty of the world and the uglier side of human nature.
One of the standout performances in “The Zone of Interest” comes from Sandra Hüller (Anatomy of a Fall) who plays Hedwig, wife of Rudolph Höss, the commandant of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Huller conveys Hedwig’s complicity in a way that is uncomfortably relatable. Christian Friedel delivers a stoic portrayal of Höss as the Everyman efficiently and adroitly carrying out his duties with no apathy for the unimaginable barbarism his duties entail.
Glazer’s direction is meticulous, and his use of visuals is striking. The film’s cinematography paints a vivid picture of the era, immersing the audience in the grim reality of the Holocaust. The camera work and a haunting and evocative score create an unsettling and thought-provoking atmosphere.
This film reminds us how easy it is to rationalize evil things and adapt to the status quo, even when we know it's fundamentally wrong.
One of the film’s strengths lies in its ability to shed light on the ordinary individuals who played a role in the Holocaust, whether willingly or under duress. “The Zone of Interest” delves into the psychology of these characters, exploring the complex interplay of fear, conspiracy, and moral ambiguity. This film reminds us how easy it is to rationalize evil things and adapt to the status quo, even when we know it’s fundamentally wrong.
Jonathan Glazer’s film also challenges the audience’s preconceptions about the Holocaust genre. Instead of relying on the well-trodden path of portraying heroes and villains, “The Zone of Interest” forces viewers to confront the uncomfortable truth that the line between the two is often blurred. The film is a grim reminder that the capacity for cruelty exists within all of us, and it is up to individuals to choose their path.
While “The Zone of Interest” is a powerful and thought-provoking film, it has moments of discomfort and unease. Glazer succeeds in making this film uncomfortable to watch without any graphic depictions of the Holocaust’s horrors. This discomfort is a testament to the film’s effectiveness in conveying the gravity of its subject matter.
“The Zone of Interest” is a haunting and provocative exploration into the depths of human morality. Jonathan Glazer’s portrayal (so different from the novel) challenges conventional storytelling in the Holocaust genre, making it a standout addition to the cinematic landscape. With powerful performances, meticulous direction, and a haunting atmosphere, this film forces audiences to confront uncomfortable truths about the darkest period in human history.
Glazer gives an experience unlike any film about the Holocaust you've seen or are likely to see.