Zone of Interest

Based loosely on the Martin Amis novel of the same name, this film is a stunning, chilling and amazing accomplishment. It begins by telling the seemingly mundane story of a relatively comfortable German family. But shortly after the film unfolds, we realize the family is living next door to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and the patriarch is the commandant of the camp.

Director and screenwriter Jonathan Glazer make the savvy decision to never show any of the horrors happening essentially next door, rather the sounds emanate sporadically into the seemingly idyllic family home and garden.

Commandant Rudolf Höss is played by Christian Friedel with the cool calculated reserve we have come to expect after decades of WW2 films. His wife (Sandra Hüller) goes about her business as a homemaker with equal amounts of competence.

We soon see Höss mulling over the blueprints for a more efficient gas chamber. He asks all the salient questions. Indeed, his ruthless efficiency is soon recognized by his superiors, resulting in a transfer. His wife refuses to leave the seeming dream home and Höss arranges to have the family stay. He is eventually posted to the new assignment. But because of his ongoing efficiency, he is sent back to Auschwitz to oversee an even larger expansion to the operation next door.

What makes the film so chilling is the unwavering complacency with which the family carries on their life, eating, swimming in the nearby river and gardening, without acknowledging what they hear and know about just over the wall. About the only intrusion into their blissful state is when Höss notices a body part floating in their swimming hole.

Despite the context the sets all look gorgeous, which is precisely the point in creating the juxtaposition; the camera never pulls back high enough to peer over the wall.



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.