Zone of Interest Movie Review

So how do you make a movie about the Holocaust without ever showing any violence and still have it be effective in helping viewers understand how horrific it was? This had to have been a question asked at the start of this project. Luckily for English director Jonathan Glazer much of it was mapped out for him from the 2014 book The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis, on which the movie was based.

In fact, it was after Glazer read the book years ago that he jumped into action to license it. What resulted was a cinematic work of art which debuted in December of 2023. The film was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and won Best International Feature Film.

When you watch a movie based on historical events, you want it to feel as authentic as possible. You want it to feel like you were somehow transported back in time and that you are a silent invisible witness to the events unfolding. This movie accomplished these things.

They filmed the movie at Auschwitz and used as much of the real structures as possible. Many of the building are quite dilapidated now, so Glazer had his team fix up a building nearby that was in much better shape so it could be used as the main stage for the movie, the home of of camp Commandant Rudolf Höss.

The actual barracks were not in good enough shape to feature either so they used CGI to touch them up. This was not a major task because you never see them up close and you don’t see them very much at all.

Have you ever wondered how the officers at these camps could possibly try to carry on a normal life when not on the clock? Me too. This movie shows you exactly how they did and how absurd their existence actually was. You get to see this man’s family go about their daily life like everything is normal while many thousands of people are dying just a few hundred feet away.

The minimal use of music as well as the simple placement of cameras on the grounds were an excellent choice. The quality and accuracy of the set and wardrobe were impressive. The acting was phenomenal.

There is no visible violence in this movie but you hear horrific sounds next to the home which include yelling, screams and gunshots. There is a droning low level grumbling of what sounds like a giant machine that you can hear through most of the film. I watched it with headphones so it was very noticeable and to me represented the camp as a machine of death, one which never ceased to operate or take a break.

It’s hard to put ratings on movies like this because the historical significance of it feels more like a documentary. And documentaries are something that I don’t give ratings to because they are not presented as pieces of entertainment, but more of a tool for learning. I am not going to give this movie a rating for that very reason. It’s the same reason that you don’t see Schindler’s List on my ratings chart. It doesn’t feel right to to assign a number to something like this.

If you want to know what happened to the Commandant after these events you can check out this article here. Needless to say he was held accountable for his crimes against humanity.

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