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The Zone of Interest is unlike any other movie about the atrocities of the Holocaust, but it purposely strips away so much emotion, you’re left with the hollow shell of a powerful, timely message.

Jonathan Glazer’s movie never shows the horror of the concentration camps – only muffled screams and disturbing gunshots are occasionally heard in the distance. Instead the director focuses on the apathy of the camp commander and his family, who live a mostly idyllic life in a villa next-door to Auschwitz.

As in his previous film, the haunting sci-fi fable Under the Skin, Glazer also experiments with disturbing, low-pitched sounds, subliminally odd images and night-vision camera’s to further enhance the unease, at times with chilling effect.

Nevertheless – despite its obvious artistic ambition and the way the film lingers in the mind because of its unconventional approach – The Zone of Interest fails to stir genuine emotions. Not unlike Stanley Kubrick, Jonathan Glazer is so busy creating subtext and odd, anachronistic juxtapositions that the text itself gets lost.

This is not just achieved by a coldly detached production design and cinematography reminiscent of stilted melodramas in the forties and fifties. The actors as well are hiding constantly behind blank, emotionless faces that make them all come across as alien psychopaths, even the kids in the family.

This ultimately is what lets The Zone of Interest down: the film is so intent on dehumanizing the perpetrators of the 20th century’s most heinous crime that their acts somehow feel less horrific.

release: 2023

director: Jonathan Glazer

starring: Sandra Hüller, Christian Friedel, Freya Kreutzkam, Ralph Herforth


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