If there's ever a film that just leaves you feeling floored it's Jonathan Glazer's The Zone Of Interest. As soon as the film finished at London Film Festival you could just sense everyone had seen something that impacted them, the usual hustle and bustle felt after a screening replaced with a silence that said everything you needed to know; Jonathan Glazer had just delivered a masterclass in filmmaking.

The commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp.
Just reading the synopsis above should make you feel uncomfortable, let alone actually watching the film - where Jonathan Glazer will take your breath away through the bold choices he makes as a filmmaker. His writing is immaculate, depicting the dream yet mundane life of the Höss family in their home amidst the backdrop of such heinous acts of genocide. This isn't a film you are meant to enjoy, it's designed to make its audience uncomfortable at a dark part of history that shouldn't be forgotten, heightened by a truly powerful closing sequence and a haunting score from Mica Levi throughout.

Juxtaposition is running through The Zone of Interest, both the imagery and use of sound design having such an impact on proceedings. Łukasz Żal's intricate cinematography emphasises the space and freedom the family have while others suffer in awful conditions just a wall's width away. There's a shot of Rudolf Höss looking over his children playing in their pool while a train carrying Jews to the camp goes by, with just the steam from the train filling the top of the screen. It's a shot that has been etched in my mind since seeing the film and I'm sure it won't leave for a while.

It isn't hyperbole to say The Zone of Interest has some of the best sound design of all time, adding another terrifying layer to it all. For a film that does a lot with its imagery, the audio is just as important in making this such a harrowing viewing experience. Night skies are lit up by the fires from the camp but Glazer wants you to hear the screams, even more so when the family are out in their garden - the unthinkable abuse of human lives so audibly clear. It'll leave you stunned but more importantly, as Glazer intended, uncomfortable.
While a lot of praise has been given to the film's technical aspects, there are two great performances on show from Christian Friedel and Sandra Hüller. There's nothing showy about either of their roles however, the distinct lack of any humanity from either from the start is unflinching and downright terrifying. It isn't until the later stages of the film where you can start to see an effect of life next to such atrocity, Hüller excelling in her respective role.

The Zone of Interest proves Jonathan Glazer isn't here to make any friends, making a film his way and in such fine fashion. It's such a unique way to depict evil and certainly unlike anything I've ever seen before.

Verdict: ★★★★★


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