April 14, 2024

THE ZONE OF INTEREST (GERMAN) (2023) – An unconventional approach in portraying a haunting vision of evil

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

This film gives its viewers a first-hand experience of the horrors of the Jewish concentration camps during World War Two. Its talented writer, director, Jonathan Glazer does this by filming this by a unique style that never lets the viewers actually see anything that happens in the concentration camps, but rather lets the viewers feel the horror indirectly from the background sounds, conversations, and images of the surrounding landscapes. The disturbing sounds we constantly hear is a stark reminder of what goes on behind the walls. The smoke bellowing out from the chimneys and sound of distant trains approaching reminds us of how big the scale of people was involved. Jonathan deliberately keeps his camera at a distance from the films characters resulting in very little closeup shots. This gives the movie a documentary feels and also akin to us peeping through our neighbor’s fence.

The film follows the lives of the family of a German Nazi commandant Rudolf Hoss and his wife Hedwig who have their home directly next to the walls of the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp. The home is given to Rudolf like some sort of employment benefit and privilege for someone of his rank. Under normal circumstances, their home is indeed the epitome of the ideal home with its big house, beautiful garden and close proximity to a lush forest and river where they can picnic, swim and fish. The horror is observing how the family can carry on their lives completely oblivious to what is taking place just a stone’s throw away. German actress Sandra Huller who has already been receiving accolades for her performance in French movie Anatomy of a Fall, gives a chilling portrayal of the evil that the nation of Germany had produced during the war. She does this effortlessly through her casual fascist remarks and her steadfast determination to keep the home when it became apparent that she may have to leave it all behind when her husband received a transfer of post. Christian Friedel similarly gives a strong impression as the promising Nazi commander whose expertise in providing enhancements to the technical aspects of the gas chambers process is instrument in helping the concentration camp meet its target extermination numbers. He goes about his duties like any ambitious executive working in an organisation without a sign of any remorse on what he is actually doing. Some hints of repercussions over his actions were subtly reflected in the final scene as he is shown descending what looks like an endless darken stairway belching along the way.

The Zone of Interest is not your ordinary movie. Its objective is not to entertain but more to open our eyes to an atrocity that never should have happened and to happen again. It does this through a media that is not new but rather through a daring experimental approach that takes the viewer beyond just sitting back uncommitted to an involving state where we actually feel the horror and anger on the subject matter. This is formed based on our own accord and not through the conventional story telling format of normal movies.

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