Home » Film Reviews » ‘The Zone of Interest’ review: Dir. Jonathan Glazer (2024)

‘The Zone of Interest’ review: Dir. Jonathan Glazer (2024)

by Rebecca Sayce

Disturbing cinema is enjoying a moment right now, with Saltburn and Poor Things grabbing headlines due to their sexually-charged content, or from those questioning whether they’re even shocking at all. But heading to UK cinemas on 2nd February, Jonathan Glazer’s latest offering The Zone Of Interest takes a unique approach to the art of devastation that is as engaging as it is heart-wrenching.

In his fourth feature film based on the 2014 novel of the same name, Glazer’s latest release follows the day-to-day life of Auschwitz concentration camp commandant Rudolf Höss, his wife Hedwig, and their five children. Höss’ position in the Nazi party has led to his family leading an idyllic life that he and Hedwig have dreamed of since they were just 17, as she tends to their sprawling garden and watches the children flourish in nature. Höss’ work at Auschwitz saw him promoted to deputy inspector of all concentration camps in Oranienberg, leaving his family behind.

From this synopsis alone, it may seem a stretch to claim that The Zone Of Interest could be the most horrific film to hit screens this year, but it is in its banality and the mundaneness of the everyday life of the Höss family that the terror of the film lies. The sound of screams, gunshots, and the roar of the crematorium are constant within the film’s sound design, masterfully created by Johnnie Burns. This is as close to the horrors of Auschwitz as viewers get within the film, but the juxtaposition of this cacophony against the sight of children merrily splashing in their swimming pool or a baby smelling flowers for the first time is enough to send your mind spiralling into utter despair.

What makes the film beautiful also makes it deadly, going straight for the jugular when viewers least expect it.

It’s startlingly hard not to find yourself aligned with Rudolf as he sits in meetings, or with Hedwig as she struggles under the responsibilities of her husband’s job as they are such commonplace activities in adult life. In this another layer of horror, in The Zone Of Interest is unveiled as the idea that many serving under the atrocious Nazi regime did see the war crimes committed as them just ‘doing their jobs.’

This grim, uncomfortable narrative is wrapped in a visually stunning world, filled with richly coloured blooms, bubbling rivers, and lush home sets whose rich colour palettes take us into a realm of surreality. The perfectionism of the cinematography is so off-putting when twinned with the appalling subject matter it becomes difficult to watch the most everyday activities play out onscreen.

The film is carried by its stellar performances, notably from Christian Friedel as the stern and ambitious Rudolf, and Sandra Hüller as the cruel yet somehow thoroughly family-oriented Hedwig. Their warm relatability is at the heart of what makes The Zone Of Interest such a sobering watch as many of those behind the atrocities of the Nazi parties were ordinary people. They were friends, parents, siblings, and colleagues who became monsters during the Second World War.

With a final scene that is sure to stick with cinema-goers for days, months, and years after viewing, The Zone Of Interest induces sheer sorrow and fear through its exploration of the everyday lives of some of the most evil people history has ever seen. What makes the film beautiful also makes it deadly, going straight for the jugular when viewers least expect it and tackling the horrors which unfolded at Auschwitz and across concentration camps with reverence and respect.

The Zone of Interest arrives in cinemas across the UK on Friday 2nd February 2024.

The Zone of Interest

Kat Hughes

The Zones of Interest

Summary

Much has been said about the banality of evil, but no films say it better than The Zone Of Interest as its horror revels in the mundane surrounding one of history’s biggest atrocities.

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