Saturday 13 April 2024

Movie Review: The Zone Of Interest (2023)

Genre: Drama  
Director: Jonathan Glazer  
Starring: Christian Friedel, Sandra Hüller  
Running Time: 105 minutes  

Synopsis: The setting is Poland during World War Two. Auschwitz concentration camp commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller), and their children live right outside the camp's perimeter fence. They go about their daily lives, the camp atrocities barely registering on their routines. Höss's efficiency is noticed by his superiors and he receives orders to relocate to a higher command, causing tension with Hedwig, who wants to stay at the house she has lovingly organized for her family. 

What Works Well: Writer and director Jonathan Glazer stands back and observes with mostly static cameras the cold contrast between bland domesticity and next-door industrial scale slaughter (only hinted at through visual and audio clues). The juxtaposition is chilling commentary on the horrific capacity to dehumanize, blank out monstrosities, loot the dead, and focus on gardening. Catastrophic suffering is reduced to peripheral annoyance and discussions about oven temperatures and train logistics. 

What Does Not Work As Well: This is an intentionally detached and plotless experience, where the characters are undefined and starved of evolutionary arcs. The performances are robotic in underlining a staid home environment operating in the shadow of death. Normalized soul destruction on both sides of the wall is the point, but the resultant cinematic experience is frigid.

Conclusion: Quietly unsettling disengagement.

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