Zone of Interest review: A chilling portrait of complicity

first few minutes area of ​​interestThe film deliberately isolates your hearing. A black screen lingers, buzzing notes intertwined with whispers and natural sounds. You fall into a meditative state of simultaneous sensory deprivation and amplification, with the effect being that for the next two hours you pay attention to everything you hear.

In Jonathan Glazer’s magnificent and disturbing new film, sound becomes crucial as the primary means of revealing what goes on beyond the walls of blissfully sheltered gardens. What Glazer gradually reveals is the idyllic home life of Rudolf Hawes, an upper-class family striving for suburban perfection. (played with eerie precision by Christian Friedel), Auschwitz’s longest-serving commander and his family. But we heard the sounds of Auschwitz, which, by some estimates, 1.1 million peopleMost of them were Jews who were murdered within five years in the German Nazi concentration and extermination camps on the outskirts of Auschwitz in Poland. It’s this contrast that provides the film’s grim dynamic, painting a chilling portrait of complicity in atrocities.

In essence, Glazer’s A24 The film has you sitting around the dinner table eating family dinners, lounging by the backyard pool, celebrating birthdays, right next to the site that would become a symbol of the Nazi genocide. As life outside their garden walls was destroyed, the Howes family poured more and more energy into their coffee.

what is area of ​​interest about?

Adapted from the 2014 novel by Martin Amis, area of ​​interest Located entirely within the 40 square kilometers surrounding Auschwitz, known by the Nazi SS as the “Area of ​​Interest”, or interest Within this euphemistic title space, the film takes place almost entirely within the two-story stucco villa and extensive gardens occupied by Rudolf and his wife Hedwig (who also stars in an unusually unsettling performance by Sandra Wheeler ” Anatomy of a Fall).

Christian Friedel stars as Rudolf Hawes in “Zone of Interest”.
Credit: A24

Here, in this grim domestic oasis, Rudolf and Hedwig built a peaceful paradise for themselves and their children, while the brutality of the camp persisted outside the barbed wire walls surrounding the estate. Cinematographer Łukasz Żal (ida, cold warand I’m thinking of ending things) captured these strange pastoral scenes with a panoramic wide-angle lens that made everything feel a little uncanny.

The film opens with a Renoir-esque picnic on the riverbank, picking blackberries.The Hoss family enjoys a sumptuous meal at their home just meters from the edge of the camp. Children played with their Nazi neighbors, while children fell victim to the war outside their own backyards. As Hedwig’s mother arrives for the first time, we embark on a ostentatious tour of the house, just steps away from one of the worst genocides in history.

But these people did not turn a blind eye to the mass killings. They are planning it, building it, profiting and prospering from it. Senior SS men and engineers grimly studied blueprints for a civilian crematorium in the family’s living room. Höss took his son on horseback through the conditions in which prisoners endured forced labor.Through these juxtaposed moments, Glazer and Zal, and shrewd editing under the skin Editor Paul Watts shows us how effective the tool of dehumanization is for the oppressors, and how it makes it easier for them to serve their own hateful self-interests. Apart from the Nazi officers and their families, the only moments we see are some surreal scenes using an infrared camera to capture a young Polish woman hiding apples and pears in the trenches of Auschwitz at night, despite the All it can do.

But nothing is more effective than this area of ​​interest than its sound design.

area of ​​interest Build a sound design weapon.

general speaking, area of ​​interest Featuring some of the strongest emotion and most exquisite sound design in film.This is all thanks to sound designer Johnnie Burn, who previously collaborated with Glazer to create unforgettable soundscapes under the skinand director Yorgos Lanthimos Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Favoriteand more recently, poor thingBurn teamed up with musician and composer Mica Levi and musical director Bridget Samuels to create what may be one of the most unsettling and brilliant audio experiences of the year.

The film’s first five minutes underscore the audience’s experience throughout, with Byrne using sound strategically to disruptive effect to emphasize the sinister nature of complicity while illustrating the everyday horrific realities of history. “Out of sight, out of mind” may be the goal, but the events in the film are not inaudible. In the foreground, the Hawes family go about their daily business, going to school, tending flower beds, and hanging laundry. In the background, a fire burns and smoke billows. , the watchtower below conveys terror, with terrifying rumblings permeating every scene. We know what it is, we don’t need to be told. What’s more, Glazer and Byrne know that you know.

In a pleasant walled garden, a woman walks towards a flower with a baby in her arms.

Sandra Hüller as Hedwig Höss in her garden.
Credit: A24

Other sonic moments are more explicit; Hedwig casually tends her vast greenhouse, her young son plays “Yahtzee” in his bedroom, and the sound of a firing squad echoes across the scene. Glazer showcases every beautiful flower in Howth’s gardens in motionless close-up, and the barking dogs, military orders and ever-present rumble prompt painful reflections in the viewer – the scene even fades to a bright red color.

These are the sounds that stay with you long after the film’s final moments, filled with the sound of vacuum cleaners and glass being wiped, preparing present-day visitors to face the horrific truths of history.

The most disturbing moments in the film are the most subtle.

A major theme throughout area of ​​interest From the title itself, a euphemism used by the Nazi SS to describe the area surrounding Auschwitz. The terrifying power of obfuscation is present throughout the film, from the orders given in chilling codes to the geographical differences between the Hawes home and the concentration camp.

Glazer carves out some deeply disturbing moments in the film, giving viewers a subtle understanding of the plight of those imprisoned and murdered in the concentration camp, including a scene that shows Hedwig and the housekeepers busy handling a pile of victims. Confiscated property. The film doesn’t ostensibly say that these were the valuable and sentimental possessions of those deported to the concentration camps, but we have no doubt. Every coat, shirt and piece of jewelry the Hawes wore, every plate used, every toy was probably confiscated from someone. Death was engineered by their patriarch. Rudolf greedily sifted through the seized cash in various currencies. In one scene, Hedwig discovers a beautiful gold lipstick in the pocket of a seized coat, apparently the prized possession of its previous owner.

One of the creepiest sets in the film proudly sits in Höss’s backyard, with a fountain and pool created by shower head.It sits in Hedwig’s pride and joy, her garden. It’s an eerie moment that collides with Glazer’s visuals, bright and full of spring euphoria. Later, when a neighboring Nazi family brings their children, a sordid scene of summer bliss surrounds the same shower head. They splash around in the hair-raising pool while their matriarch lolls on a lounge chair, smoke rising from the kitchen after her leisure time.

Even the design of the garden itself is a deeply disturbing element of the film, as it is clear that it was built to last, with careful planning for seasonal yields and extended development. The sidewalks are grassy, ​​sunflowers stand tall, and as Hedwig strolls haughtily among the beehives, she declares, “Rudy calls me the Queen of Auschwitz.” It’s a shock. Casual, even gleeful, it’s a noteworthy act of courage for Wheeler and Friedel to play these particularly despicable characters, and it was likely not an easy decision. Through this garden we are subtly aware of the passage of time in this tragic place. In a moment of utter apathy, Hedwig tells her mother that she planted vines on the walls of the camp. “Eventually, she took root here, as becomes apparent later in Rudolf’s redistribution narrative; Hedwig plans to She lived her long life in Auschwitz while devising decorative strategies to avoid having to see herself participating in mass genocide. “They had to drag me out of here,” Hedwig declared.

Ultimately, Glazer distills the chilling nature of complicity into abhorrent self-interest, using gorgeous cinematography, bold performances, and brilliant sound design to transport viewers to the wrong side of history. If you pay attention, area of ​​interest It makes you sick because, whether we want to accept it or not, we are all potentially complicit.

In October, “Zone of Interest” was rejected by judges at the BFI London Film Festival; the film showing in theaters December 15th.

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