The Zone of Interest Review: Potent Yet Distant

The Zone Of Interest is technically flawless but lacks emotional pull, observes Mayur Sanap.

With the number of films based on the Holocaust, it’s hard to find something unique dealing with this very emotive subject.

In Director Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, where he adapts the screenplay from Martin Amis’ novel, he puts the harrowing events of the Holocaust into perspective through the family life of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss (played by Christian Friedel), who owns a palatial house just next to the horrific death camp.

The most striking aspect of this film lies in its very distinct approach in framing the horrors of the Holocaust.

What we see here is the juxtaposition of relatively mundane daily routine of the Hoss family against the genocidal programme of the Nazis being perpetrated just over their garden wall.

That is where the real terror lies.

The film opens with a long, sinister musical prelude that cuts to a tranquil Hoss family home.

Rudolf’s wife Hedwig (the impressive Sandra Huller, who is in the running for the Best Actress Oscar for Anatomy Of A Fall) is so consumed with her dream home that her indifference to the mass murders happening in the immediate vicinity is her natural reaction.

Huller, with her credulous eyes minus the hysterical weeping of Vera Farmiga from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, does a neat turn as the compliant wife concerned only about her home and children.

Christian Friedel is excellent, channeling a meek version of Christoph Waltz from Inglorious Basterds.

He isn’t presented as a brutish officer, but shown as a devoted family man who sees the running of a concentration camp as a job.

This strange normalcy is what makes The Zone Of Interest a terrifying watch.

We never see any of the horrors of Auschwitz taking place but all of that is implied through the sound, designed brilliantly by Mica Levi.

The cruellest of horrors are left to our imagination with the frequent firing of gunshots and agonising screams or the crematorium fires flaring up at night or smoke billowing out from furnace chimneys during daytime.

Ɓukasz Zal’s static camera captures the wide frames to make sure we are sucked right into the moment to feel the strange isolation in many unsettling ways.

In that sense, the film is technically flawless, but despite this evocative approach, it lacks the emotional pull, mainly because there is no strong plot or well-rounded characters that would sustain our interest for close to its two-hour duration.

Once the core messaging of the film is apparent, it feels indulgent with its leisurely pacing that ultimately leaves you with an empty, sceptical sense.

With the actual war raging in the real world and we all being more or less indifferent to it, perhaps this film points us towards the human horror the world is capable of.

In final moments when the film moves to the present day, we see the aftermath of the evils of the Holocaust that hit like a sucker punch.

This film needed more of that.

The Zone of Interest Review Rediff Rating: