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  • Gareth Crook

The Zone of Interest (2023) - 6/10

Coming off watching Claude Lanzmann’s 9 hour documentary on the Holocaust, Shoah, I’m not sure how I’ll take to The Zone of Interest. First of all this is dramatic, cinematic and stylish. All things that feel a bit fluffy with a part of history like this, but hang on. The same could be said of Schindler’s List and that worked rather well. A dissident ambient score softly introduces a young German family, enjoying the countryside on a fine day as a slow discomforting rumble takes over. Scenes of idyllic family life, slowly interrupted by glimpses of razor wire and lookout towers. For this family live next door to Auschwitz. Where the father, Rudolph Höss (Christian Friedel) murders Jews. It’s unnerving to watch as the family get gifts of new clothes and food, clearly taken from those recently gassed and burned. Each scene held under a kind of stark microscope, with the camera locked off like Roy Andersson film. The children reenact executions with toy soldiers and proudly wear the uniform of the Hitler youth. The point is, they’re all evil bastards, keeping their hands clean, pretending some faux sophistication. In a picture perfect world they’ve created, whilst ignoring the horrors that we can only hear on the other side of the camp wall. That is until Höss finds out that although he’s powerful in this fabrication, it’s only that. On finding out they’re to be transferred, his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) is not best pleased. For she thinks they live in paradise. It’s unclear what this film is trying to say. It tells a different side of the story and although it doesn’t glorify it, it’s doesn’t exactly condemn it either. It feels almost eerily indifferent. Soulless. Heartless. Like the people it portrays. It’s an odd film, not one that I can say I enjoyed, although it has something about it. It just struggles under the weight of its history, which is perhaps why the jarring final scenes of present day Auschwitz are tagged on in a surreal twist. It’s beautifully shot though and the sound design is fantastic.



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