The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer, 2023, USA/UK/Poland)

The Zone of Interest is the latest film from British auteur Jonathan Glazer. Glazer, who is perhaps best known for the Scarlett Johansson vehicle Under the Skin (2013), has had a limited but interesting career in feature films (though he has also worked heavily in advertising). His latest, via A24, is a German-language period piece shot near Auschwitz in Poland. The film purports to be based on the novel of the same title by the late Martin Amis, but from what I have heard Amis's darkly comic novel only served as a point of inspiration for Glazer's script.

The film, from a seemingly objective vantage point, takes us through the daily life of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hess and his family. Hess in real life lived in an idyllic home just off the grounds of the concentration camp (his home still stands today). We are drawn into his domestic routine, his life with his children, his relationship with his wife Hedwig, and the stresses of his job. Meanwhile, we can hear but never see what is going on in the walls behind the Hess home.

There are a few stylistic flourishes in the film, most notably an epilogue that takes actual footage of Auschwitz today, as well as the cleaning of the Holocaust museum there. But for the most part, the film is played as a drama. It is sometimes unclear what Glazer's intent is - clearly, there is some kind of dry humor at work here. But it isn't clear if the film was intended to be humorous to some degree. Effectively shot by Lukasz Zal, The Zone of Interest is an interesting mood piece, but the film doesn't offer much in the way of development or tonal shifts. It feels studied, more like a museum piece than a narrative. Still worth watching.



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