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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Zone of Interest (M) - 105 minutes

A vitally important film, The Zone of Interest is a deeply distressing watch, at the root of which is pure evil … and denial.

 

It focuses on the commandant of Auschwitz and his family living in the lap of luxury while victims in the concentration camp next door are ruthlessly murdered en masse.

 

Rudolf Hoss (Christian Friedel) is applauded for the role he has played at Auschwitz – on the outskirts of Oswiecim in Poland – for four years.

He and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Huller) and their five children, including a baby, have everything they could wish for.

 

They have a large home, a sprawling garden, including a greenhouse and a gazebo.

 

They have servants aplenty.

 

As Jews are gassed to death, they have access to all the clothing and valuables they could possibly want.

As if without a care in the world, they swim in the river and enjoy the convivial country life.

 

A keen horseman, Hoss loves his steed deeply and takes every opportunity to ride.

 

Meanwhile, plumes of dark smoke are continually seen rising into the sky from the chimneys at Auschwitz.

 

The top brass sees a bright future for the ruthless and practical Hoss.

Against his wishes, he is transferred and elevated to deputy inspector, while his wife and children stay behind.

 

In so doing, Hoss will oversee other concentration camps to obtain greater efficiencies.

 

He will need to bring the latter to the fore because Hitler has just agreed to deport 700,000 Jews from Hungary. Of course, he is up for the challenge.

 

Written and masterfully directed by Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest is based on a novel by Martin Amis.

The film starts and ends in darkness against a troubling music bed, which serves to illuminate the horrors.

 

Throughout the movie we hear barbaric sounds emanating from Auschwitz, which is but a few hundred metres from the Hoss residence.

 

Hoss is an unbending authoritarian, while his wife treats the help with indifference, at best.

 

She recognises what a perfect life she has and all she is concerned about is when her husband will find the time to take her on another spa holiday to Italy.

 

She even let out girlish giggles.

 

The performances of Christian Friedel and Sandra Huller are chilling.

Their children appear to buy in to the idyllic picture, ignoring – as far as possible – the dastardly deeds being perpetrated within metres of their home.

 

It is impossible to see past the atrocities depicted in The Zone of Interest, but these are handled in a way I have not seen before.

 

Much of the film unfolds through the power of suggestion.

 

The brutality is depicted through the carefree life of Hedwig and the children, in sharp contrast to the insidious nature of the Nazi war machine.

The latter only needs to be shown in a handful of scenes to become entrenched in one’s psyche.

 

And the final scenes go some way to highlighting the magnitude of what went down at Auschwitz and at other concentration camps during WWII.

 

Let us never forget that six million Jewish lives were lost.

 

The Zone of Interest is traumatising, but it needs to be seen.

 

Incidentally, the title is drawn from the term used by the Nazis to describe the 40 square kilometre area surrounding Auschwitz concentration camp.

 

It speaks to the determined and disquieting sense of obfuscation that permeates the film.

 

Rated M, it scores a 9 out of 10.

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