The Zone of Interest

Verdict: Jonathan Glazer's Holocaust drama is a haunting, hard-hitting watch that will stick with you hours after the credits roll

  • Sandra Huller, Christian Friedel, Freya Kreutzkam
  • February 2nd 2024
  • Jonathan Glazer

Christian Friedel plays Auschwitz commandant alongside Sandra Hüller as his wife in this sobering domestic drama.

Jonathan Glazer’s hard-hitting drama The Zone of Interest depicts the Holocaust in a way we’ve never seen on screen before.

The story, inspired by Martin Amis’ novel of the same name, depicts the mundane day-to-day lives of a German family in Poland. But this is no ordinary family or home – the house is run by Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) and it adjoins the border fence of the concentration and extermination camp.

The Zone of Interest takes a radical approach to the subject of the Holocaust – we are the fly on the wall of their home and we simply observe the monotonous, banal goings-on in their family life. On the surface, it is quite a dull domestic drama, but that’s what makes it so powerful – they go about their days without giving much thought about the atrocities going on next door.

The emotional impact of this film is in all the sound design and it should win that category at the Oscars in March. You don’t see any of the upsetting war crimes in Auschwitz but you hear it – and that is more than enough. The contrast between what you see (their quaint home life) and what you hear (the sounds of people dying) makes this a deeply uncomfortable and unsettling watch.

The Zone of Interest will not work for everyone – some will find its approach boring while others may take issue with the Hösses being depicted as actual people. Thankfully, Glazer never humanises them – he doesn’t give them much of an internal life and observes them coldly like they’re the subjects of a documentary.

The film, one of the Best Picture Oscar nominees, is hard-hitting and depressing with a haunting sound design and score from Mica Levi. It will leave you thinking about it for hours after the credits roll.

It may not be a pleasant cinema experience but it is an essential and timely watch that makes you think about how easy it is to turn a blind eye to evil.

In cinemas Friday 2nd February.

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