Review: The Zone of Interest – The banality of evil
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Starring Christian Friedel, Sandra Hüller
If a film like this can be summed up in one word, it’s ‘static’. Referring both to the many static shots in the film as well as the general stasis of the story, The Zone of Interest has no qualms about looking directly into the lives of a Nazi family living by a concentration camp. Similarly to Oppenheimer, The Zone of Interest shows none of the destruction and devastation of the war, only the discussion.
Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) is a commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp and lives nearby with his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) and kids. Their house is lavish, with great care taken to the garden, which is often seen with the camp right behind the fence. The incredible framing of the film shows the casualness of this family and their peers with the dreadful buildings towering just beyond, which everyone seems to ignore. This level of direction with the set design is astonishing, and it’s shots like these that really sum up the main idea of the film—the banality of evil.
Yet there’s also an obviousness to the film in how it demonstrates this banality. It’s certainly committed, with the casualness of the acting staying that way until the end. But it also feels as if the film never really reaches a third act, and this demonstration of casualness ultimately gets slightly tiresome when it should evolve into something more.
But this still remains quite a striking film, moreso in the beginning and middle, as we’re first shown its curiosities, such as the night-vision footage of what happens at night. Although the film never really comes to an outburst of rage or despair, it’s the music that gives it a real haunting feeling, which is made all the more powerful by the contrast it has with the on-screen emotionlessness.
The Zone of Interest has a clear idea, and it commits wholly to it. And because of that, it may be why it comes to a bit of a dead end with what it wants to say about Nazis. But there are still plenty of moments that are incredible, and obviously very upsetting, to watch. There’s a deadening calm to the entire film that makes it so uneasy, and with the thought-provoking moments of intriguing left turns (particularly the one at the end), it all makes for a reflective watch.
The Zone of Interest plays at UWA’s Somerville Auditorium from Monday, January 29 to Sunday, February 4. For more information and to buy tickets head to perthfestival.com.au