Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

"A domestic drama that is constantly having its stitches busted open": The Zone of Interest

Jonathan Glazer's first film since 2013's Under The Skin places family-home utopia next to the abject horror of the Holocaust.

The Zone of Interest

Jonathan Glazer has not made a film since 2013’s ethereal sci-fi Under The Skin. This follow-up is another adaptation that the director has transformed into a cerebral and experimental art film. Much like fellow Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon, The Zone of Interest explores complicity and ignorance in the face of atrocity.

The film follows Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss (Christian Friedel), who lives with his wife Hedwig (Sandra Huller) and their five children in an idyllic family home which they have dreamed of their whole lives – and which is attached to the infamous concentration camp.

For much of this film, there is an utter lack of drama. The pace is so languid and listless that it feels like the runtime is being wished away. This may sound like a damning criticism, but it's really where the true horror lies.

There is a conscious obliviousness to every character. From trying on clothes confiscated from prisoners to pointedly closing every door and window of the house to conceal what's happening next door, the choice to ignore barbaric events is always shown to be intentional.

When Commandant Hoss is promoted, the only thing the family are concerned with is how it interrupts their utopia. It's a domestic drama that is constantly having its stitches busted open by the true story underneath.

You could keep your eyes closed for the entirety of this film and still be overwhelmed by its haunting atmosphere, thanks to impeccable sound design paired with a sparsely applied musical score by Mica Levi. Sound turns Auschwitz into a character unto itself. The echoing screams, the whirring of industrial machinery and the faint sounds of gunfire are unrelenting and they turn the camp into a monolithic symbol of ubiquitous and unspeakable evil, attached to the Hoss family's version of paradise.

The Zone of Interest is deliberately cold and alienating and it will leave audiences feeling as such. While it's probably a 'one and done' viewing for many, the chilling atmosphere lingers long in the memory. You will find yourself reflecting on the fact that these events happened as coldly and banally as the film portrays.

More Film

The Right to Continue Dreaming

Those fighting for a better world continue to do so, whether that's in Palestine or Peru. A double-bill film screening in Sheffield on 19 February celebrates the links between culture and politics, in Latin America and beyond.

More Film