Film: The Zone of Interest

It’s a testament to the effectiveness of The Zone of Interest (2023) that its copious, expectation-setting acclaim—which also outs its theme—fails to ruin the film. Helmed by Under the Skin director Jonathan Glazer, the film loosely adapts a Martin Amis novel about a Third Reich family that lives adjacent to the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp. Nazi officer Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) is the commandant of the camp, and his ruthless efficiency running it has privileged his family with a lavish, idyllic existence—in the house next door, where entitled wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) raises her family, tends her garden, and prospers off the valuables of the camp’s many victims.

The Zone of Interest isn’t so much a story as a potent screed about the perils of complicity an normalized atrocity—a desperately important message, given how many voters worldwide seem determined, lately, to resurrect those dark days. Glazer makes his case with unsettling artistry, painting the mise en scene with a bright, colorful palette designed to both mask and contrast against the cruel horrors just over the wall. The film’s secret weapon, though, is sound: a rumbling, industrial background roar punctuated by gunshots, shouts, and screams. The message isn’t subtle, but it’s nonetheless chilling, especially when one considers how close to the Höss’s mindset our zeitgeist continues to drift. Given the pedigree and the buzz, The Zone of Interest delivered exactly what I was anticipating from it, failing to surprise at every turn—except in how devastatingly well it works.

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