“The Zone of Interest”


Metacritic (7/10), Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10), TMDB.com (3.5/5)

Some movies just have to be seen, even if they make for a difficult watch, and writer-director Jonathan Glazer’s latest is one of those pictures. While this offering is at times a bit uneven, when it’s on, it’s on, leaving a powerfully indelible mark on viewers, one that you feel in your gut and your heart and can’t get out of your mind. The film tells the unnerving story of the family of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel). They reside directly next door to the infamous Nazi concentration camp, somehow managing to live seemingly “normal” lives in the shadow of this horrendously notorious facility. What’s most chilling, however, is that the family seems largely oblivious to the atrocities taking place on their doorstep, focusing more on their social activities and material possessions instead, even with the routine sounds of gunfire and the sight of billowing smoke from mass crematoriums filling the surrounding skies. In portraying this, the filmmaker doesn’t need to resort to graphic, gratuitous imagery to make his point about the unspeakable acts unfolding so close to home; comparatively simpler depictions of these events (and their aftermath) speak volumes instead, creating some of the most implicitly unsettling sights ever captured on film. As a consequence, this approach really makes one wonder how anybody could be so wantonly callous and unfeeling, making for truly troubling viewing. Yet it’s also the kind of imagery that has to be seen for its full impact to sink in. This Oscar nominee for best picture – and the recipient of numerous other competition and film festival accolades throughout awards season – richly deserves the attention it has garnered, even if it’s an inherently disturbing watch (sensitive viewers take note). To be sure, there are some pacing issues that could stand to be rectified, and a few story threads could use better clarity, but the picture’s superb cinematography and fine performances by its excellent ensemble cast (especially Sandra Hüller as the commandant’s self-absorbed wife) are undeniably noteworthy. This might be a film that no one wants to screen – but that everybody nevertheless should.