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The Zone of Interest 12A

Jonathan Glazer, Poland, UK, USA, 2023, 106m.

Rudolf, Hedwig and their family live the perfect suburban dream with their beautifully ordered house and garden. But audible from behind the wall are the sounds of mechanised death, for Rudolf Höss is the commandant of Auschwitz. Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Under the Skin) offers his most ambitious film yet, displacing the usual tropes of the Holocaust drama to depict the pampered life of executioners inhabiting the bubble of bourgeois denial, keeping the reality of genocide hermetically sealed on the outside.

The Garden Cinema View:

Jonathan Glazer’s highly anticipated return to feature filmmaking after a 10-year hiatus strips away the comedic and erotic trappings of Martin Amis’ source novel to reveal a cinematic crystallisation of Hannah Arendt’s The Banality of Evil. Indeed the nightmare of Auschwitz is never faced directly, and much of the running time encompasses the relative non-drama of daily life. For this is a film where the focus is perpetually drawn to an offscreen space of unthinkable horror. The place beyond the wall at the end of the manicured garden; the smoke drifting across the top of the frame; the sounds of military-industrial machinery and human suffering which the family pretend to ignore during a refreshing afternoon swim; the presence of certain ‘banal’ household objects, acquired by unspoken means. Correspondingly, Glazer’s camera picks out doorways, walls, corridors, and windows. Silently questioning what lies beyond/within; an answer provided only by our imaginations, knowledge of history, and a willingness to decode the bureaucratic language of logistics and statistics espoused by Rudolf Höss and his fellow officers.

A unique and thoroughly sobering cinema experience which is bolstered by fine casting and performances, and particularly striking cinematography from Łukasz Żal and scoring from Mica Levi.  

The 19:50 screening on Monday 12 February was followed by a discussion with film critic Sophie Monks Kaufman

Christian Friedel, Sandra Hüller, Medusa Knopf, Daniel Holzberg

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  • It’s hard to say a film is a masterpiece when its story is so monstrous, but this is one. I’m still struggling to make sense of my desire to see it again. Is it because of the cinematography, which is dazzling, intoxicating? The actors’ totally truthful depictions of evil banality? The extraordinary sound design that actually equates to some…[Read more]

    • It is a universal horror – allowing the Holocaust to somehow be more important than every colonial horror inflicted on any peoples actually devalues the suffering of the people who died at the hands of Nazi Germany. One of the films strengths is in telling a historical story while also preserving an off-handedness that makes it universal. It’s a…[Read more]

      • I’m afraid I’m no historian of colonial atrocities, but certainly agree that many acts of barbarity happened in colonised territories across the world an over the centuries. However, I disagree that the film is simply about “ignoring suffering”, as you put it. For me, I keep going back to Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase, “the banality of evil”: we…[Read more]

        • Fair enough, and I don’t want anything but sharing knowledge and thoughts (not argument). What exactly separates the Holocaust from the actions of Germany in Namibia, the actions of the British across the world, the Spanish and Portuguese in south America, the Israelis in Palestine or the colonialists in north America? Read “Exterminate all the…[Read more]

          • I’m not quite sure what you’re saying. If you mean the people in The Zone of Interest are not ordinary Germans, I disagree. They absolutely ARE ordinary citizens, citizens who have been given privileged positions within the Nazi hierarchy. And I don’t in any way deny the evils of the regimes you cite. I’m sure there will have been many people who…[Read more]