Thursday, November 30, 2023

The chilling distance of The Zone of Interest

In “The Chilling Distance of The Zone of Interest,” Kevin Nguyen, a features editor at The Verge, provides an insightful review of Jonathan Glazer’s film that takes an austere and unrelenting look at the life of Auschwitz’s commandant. Nguyen highlights how the film juxtaposes the idyllic surroundings of the commandant’s home with the horrors happening just outside its walls. While Glazer’s camera work and technical achievements are remarkable, Nguyen points out that the film doesn’t delve deeper into the themes it introduces, leaving the audience wanting more. Despite this, “The Zone of Interest” remains a haunting and sobering portrayal of the Holocaust, reminding us of the need to be aware of the wider world beyond our own small lives.

The chilling distance of The Zone of Interest

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In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the chilling and austere world of “The Zone of Interest,” Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of Martin Amis’ novel. Set during World War II in the area surrounding Auschwitz, the film offers a cold and unrelenting glimpse into the life of Auschwitz’s commandant, Rudolf Höss. We will explore the background information behind the film, including the designation of the “zone of interest” and Glazer’s previous work. We will also analyze the movie’s camera work, technical achievements, themes, and ideas, as well as its ending and broader interpretation. Lastly, we will examine the audience response and share comments from readers. By the end of this article, you will have a comprehensive understanding of “The Zone of Interest” and its impact.


“The Zone of Interest” is a thought-provoking and haunting film that takes viewers on a journey through the dark and disturbing world of Auschwitz during World War II. Directed by Jonathan Glazer, the film offers a unique perspective on the Holocaust, focusing specifically on the life of Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz. Through meticulous camera work and cinematography, Glazer creates a chilling atmosphere that immerses viewers in the bleak reality of the concentration camp. In this article, we will explore the film’s background, review its technical achievements, analyze its themes and ideas, and examine its ending and meta-textual gesture. We will also include audience responses to gain a broader understanding of the film’s impact.

The chilling distance of The Zone of Interest

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Background Information

Designation of the Zone of Interest

During World War II, the area surrounding Auschwitz was designated the “zone of interest” by the Germans. This phrase, though intentionally dull and euphemistic, represented the horrifying reality of the concentration camp and the mass murder that took place there. Jonathan Glazer’s film explores the cynicism and self-delusion inherent in this designation, shedding light on the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Jonathan Glazer’s Adaptation

“The Zone of Interest” is an adaptation of Martin Amis’ novel of the same name. While Amis fictionalized the characters in his novel, Glazer’s film centers around Rudolf Höss, the real-life commandant of Auschwitz. By focusing on Höss, Glazer offers a harrowing portrayal of a man deeply entrenched in the Nazi party and responsible for the mass extermination of Jews. Glazer’s adaptation captures the chilling and unsettling nature of Amis’ original work, creating a powerful cinematic narrative.

Plot Summary

The film follows Rudolf Höss and his family as they go about their daily lives in a stately home located near Auschwitz. Hedwig Höss, Rudolf’s wife, maintains an idyllic existence, seemingly ignorant of the mass murder happening just beyond the walls of their home. The most significant conflict arises when Rudolf is ordered to transfer to a different city, but Hedwig refuses to leave. The film does not adhere to a conventional plot structure, but rather focuses on the psychological and emotional tension within the Höss family as they navigate their lives amidst the horrors of Auschwitz.

Glazer’s Previous Work

Before “The Zone of Interest,” Jonathan Glazer has gained recognition for his previous films, particularly “Birth” (2004) and “Under the Skin” (2012). In “Birth,” Glazer explores the concept of reincarnation and the supernatural as Nicole Kidman’s character encounters a young boy who may embody the spirit of her deceased husband. “Under the Skin” portrays Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress who preys on unsuspecting men. Glazer’s unique storytelling and visual style in these films are reflected in “The Zone of Interest,” resulting in a haunting and visually striking portrayal of the Holocaust.

Movie Review

Camera Work and Cinematography

One of the standout aspects of “The Zone of Interest” is its meticulous camera work and cinematography. Collaborating with cinematographer Łukasz Żal, known for his work on films such as “Ida” and “Cold War,” Glazer creates a visual aesthetic that is both haunting and detached. The camera maintains a distance from the characters, rarely offering close-ups of their faces. This deliberate choice enhances the sense of remove and detachment that the characters experience in their immediate surroundings. The film’s bucolic forests are brightly lit, almost to the point of being washed out, while the interiors feel cold and angular. Glazer’s masterful use of the camera captures the bleakness of Auschwitz, leaving a lasting impression on viewers.

Technical Achievements

“The Zone of Interest” showcases several technical achievements that contribute to its overall impact. From the meticulously designed sets that recreate the world of Auschwitz to the detailed costumes that evoke the time period, every aspect of the film’s production design is carefully executed. The sound design, including the occasional crackle of gunfire and the rising plumes of smoke, adds to the atmospheric and immersive experience of the film. Additionally, the film’s score, composed by a talented team, underscores the tension and emotions portrayed on-screen.

Themes and Ideas

At its core, “The Zone of Interest” explores the themes of power, complicity, and the banality of evil. The film delves into the psychological and moral implications of individuals who are complicit in acts of genocide. Through the character of Rudolf Höss, Glazer examines how seemingly ordinary people can become perpetrators of immense cruelty. The film also touches on the concept of self-delusion, as Hedwig Höss lives in denial and ignorance of the horrors unfolding around her. By presenting these themes in a nuanced and thought-provoking manner, “The Zone of Interest” prompts viewers to reflect on the human capacity for both good and evil.

Ending and Meta-textual Gesture

“The Zone of Interest” concludes with a meta-textual gesture that takes viewers to present-day Auschwitz. This brief jump in time serves as a reminder of the enduring horror and legacy of the Holocaust. While the move may appear obvious to some, it effectively emphasizes the lasting impact of the events depicted throughout the film. Glazer’s use of this technique serves as a subtle nod to the movie’s production, which was shot on location at Auschwitz. The ending leaves viewers with a sense of unease and a deeper understanding of the gravity of the Holocaust.

Broader Interpretation

While “The Zone of Interest” is an effective Holocaust film, it also offers a broader interpretation that extends beyond the specific historical context. The film highlights the tendency of individuals to focus on their immediate surroundings and personal ambitions, even as abominable things occur in the world. By juxtaposing the domestic rhythms of the Höss family’s life with the horrors of Auschwitz, Glazer underscores the need for people to acknowledge and confront the larger injustices occurring around them. The film serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy and awareness in a world that often turns a blind eye to suffering.

The chilling distance of The Zone of Interest

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Audience Response

Comments from Readers

Since its release, “The Zone of Interest” has garnered mixed reactions from audiences. While some praise the film for its haunting atmosphere, technical achievements, and thought-provoking themes, others express a desire for a stronger narrative and more engaging character development. Many readers have commented on the chilling and austere portrayal of Auschwitz, with some highlighting the film’s ability to evoke a sense of unease and discomfort. The meta-textual gesture at the end has also sparked discussions among viewers, with some finding it effective in conveying the lasting impact of the Holocaust and others deeming it predictable. Overall, audience responses reflect the film’s ability to provoke contemplation and stimulate conversation.


“The Zone of Interest” is a chilling and austere film that offers a unique perspective on the Holocaust. Jonathan Glazer’s meticulous camera work and cinematography create a haunting atmosphere, capturing the bleak reality of Auschwitz. The film tackles themes such as power, complicity, and the banality of evil, prompting viewers to introspect on the human capacity for both good and evil. While Glazer’s technical achievements and thought-provoking ideas are commendable, some may find the narrative lacking in depth and character development. Nevertheless, “The Zone of Interest” serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring horror of the Holocaust and the importance of confronting injustice in the world.

The chilling distance of The Zone of Interest

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