There have been countless films that take a historical or fictional look at World War II and the surrounding events. However few, if any, have done it in the way that director Jonathan Glazer has portrayed these events in The Zone of Interest. It’s not a film that everyone will like. It’s not even a film that everyone will understand. But it is a film that will get people talking, and that’s likely the point.
The Zone of Interest follows the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, during the events of World War II. The infamous concentration camps offer constant background noise within the film as it follows Höss and his family throughout their daily lives. The film is entirely in German, with English subtitles, which further helps immerse the audience in the often mundane lives of a Nazi officer and his family.
Some of the controversies surrounding the film include how normalized the movie makes Nazi life during the war. This is intentional, and part of what makes the film so unique. Putting any such controversies aside, The Zone of Interest is a well made and well acted movie. Glazer clearly executes his unique vision, which is both artistic and terrifying.
While the Höss family is going about their daily lives, faint sounds of gunfire and officers struggling with their captives can be heard in the background. The concentration camps are just beyond the backyard of the Höss home. Meanwhile, Höss has a number of conversations about the camps throughout his daily routine.
It’s understandable that it’s difficult to watch a film that treats a Nazi family like they’re normal people, but in reality they were. There are some artistic elements throughout the film that showcase the troubling subject matter in a more abstract way, as well as hints that not all Germans were on board with the Nazi propaganda.
The Zone of Interest is definitely not an easy film to watch, but it does offer a powerful message. With that said, the unique approach to the material calls into question who the film was actually made for. Most Americans aren’t interested in watching a subtitled film. When you couple that fact with the subject matter and how the film treats the Höss family as normal people, it’s difficult to pinpoint the target market here.
In a vacuum, The Zone of Interest is one of the best films of 2023 (disregarding the wide release not happening until 2024). However, it’s difficult to look at such a film through that limited perspective. When taken as a whole, it’s a troubling film that won’t appeal to most people. If you can stomach the subject matter, it’s a riveting and unique character study on an average Nazi family.
About The Zone of Interest
Synopsis: The commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, and his wife Hedwig, strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp.
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Writers: Martin Amis, Jonathan Glazer
Stars: Sandra Hüller, Christian Friedel, Freya Kreutzkam
Runtime: 1 Hour, 45 Minutes
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.