Summary: Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife Hedwig strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden beside the camp.

Year: 2024

Cinema Release Dates:  22nd February 2024 (Australia), 7th March 2024 (Thailand), 2nd February 2024 (UK), 15th December 2023 (USA)

VOD Release Dates: TBA

Country: USA, UK, Poland

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Screenwriter: Jonathan Glazer

Cast: Nele Ahrensmeier (Inge-Brigitt Hoss), Max Beck (Schwarzer), Anastazja Drobniak (Annagret Hoss), Lilli Falk (Heideraud Hoss), Christian Friedel (Rodolf Hoss), Sandra Huller (Hedwig Hoss), Andrey Isaev (Bronek), Rainer Haustein (Richard Glucks), Ralph Herforth (Oswald Pohl), Daniel Hoffmann (Dr. Meindl, Steyr-Daimer-Puch), Daniel Holzberg (Gerard Maurer), Johann Karthaus (Claus Hoss), Klaudiusz Kaufmann (Obstersturmbannfuhrer Bisschoff), Medusa Knopf (Elfryda), Imogen Kogge (Linna Hensel), Zuzanna Kobiela (Aniela), Freya Kreutzkam (Eleanor Pohl), Shenja Lacher (Gauleiter Fritz Bracht voice)), Wolfgang Lampl (Hans Burger), Sascha Maaz (Arthur Liebehenschel), Thomas Neumann (Karl Prufer), Cecylia Pekala (Annagret Hoss), Stephanie Petrowitz (Sophie), Thomas Piwko (Kapo Bohner), Julia Polaczek (Aleksandra Bystron-Kolodziejczyk), Martyna Poznanski (Marta), Benjamin Utzerath (Fritz Sander), Kalman Wilson (Annagret Hoss), Luis Noah Witte (Hans Hoss), Ralf Zillmann (Hoffmann)

Running Time: 105 minutes

Classification: M (Australia), TBC (Thailand), 12-A (UK), PG13 (USA)


David Griffiths’s The Zone Of Interest Review

For many film lovers these days the cinema has become a place of action blockbusters, epic stunts and superhero franchises. But all of that seems to change when the world’s focus turns to Awards season. In Phuket over the next month or so we are going to see a range of this year’s Oscar nominated films – and for the lovers of really serious cinema you are in for an absolute treat this year.

One such film is the brand new film from Oscar nominated director Jonathan Glazer (Birth) who just like Steven Spielberg did with Schindler’s List delves into the dark history of the Holocaust and has delivered an absolute masterpiece in the form of The Zone of Interest.

The focus of The Zone Of Interest is on perhaps one of the most evil men of the Nazi regime, Rudolf Hoss (Christian Friedel – The White Ribbon), the man who was responsible for planning, building and running Auschwitz.

The film explores that while the atrocities of one of the most notorious concentration camps were occurring next door, in what almost seemed like a country villa, the Hoss family and their staff went about their daily business like nothing was wrong at all.

During these days the kids played happily, Rudolf took meetings with some of the Nazi Party’s top brass while his wife, Hedwig (Sandra Huller – Anatomy Of A Fall), takes pride in her own design – a beautiful garden that is lauded by all those who visit it.

There is no way to say it nicely – despite its brilliance The Zone Of Interest is an unsettling film to watch. Like The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and Schindler’s List before it this is a film that makes its audience feel uncomfortable while they remain focussed on the screen. As an audience member you find yourself wanting to look away from the screen, or due to the film’s soundscape cover your ears, but such is the genius of Glazer’s work you find yourself enchanted by it.

Part of the brilliance of the film is the fact that Glazer, who acts as both director and screenwriter on this film, never allows the audience to see what is happening inside Auschwitz. Instead we see the Hoss children playing in the pool or Hedwig working in the garden while we hear gunshots, screaming and dogs barking coming from beyond the fence next door. Even the sound of the industrial noises can cause an unsettling effect on the audience because you know what kind of ‘factory’ it really is.

Teaming up with Glazer brilliantly is also cinematographer Lukasz Zal (Ida) who delivers some haunting shots of Auschwitz’s chimneys spewing out smoke and ash in the background of the Hoss family enjoying the beauty of their garden. There perhaps has never been a more stunning way of capturing hell being next door to heaven then the way Zal and Glazer depict this garden being right next door to one of the most horrific places in human history.

While The Zone Of Interest is clearly one of the best movies of 2024 the film does have a major flaw though. Towards the end of the film, when Hoss is relocated, the film moves away from the Hoss family home far too often and these scenes seem to lack the brilliance of those that have come before it. Having said that though some of the films most dramatic scenes come in the lead up to that move when Hoss is explaining to his wife why he has to go while Hedwig is refusing to leave the amazing garden she has built.

Also helping making The Zone of Interest a masterpiece are the performances of Sandra Huller and Christian Fiedel. It is never easy to bring a human side to a monster like Hoss yet Friedel does that remarkably well and perhaps one of the most horrifying parts of this film for the audience is the fact that you walk out of the cinema feeling like you understand Hoss a little more as a human.

Backing up from her stunning performance in The Anatomy Of A Fall Sandra Huller also shines in this film. Her portrayal of Hedwig is amazing and leads the audience to ask one question – was she aware of the atrocities happening next to her garden and ignoring it or was she so focussed on her piece of paradise that she was blissfully unaware of all around her.The Zone Of Interest may not be an easy film to watch but for lovers of arthouse cinema it is a must see. It feels weird describing a film as harrowing yet beautiful yet that is the only way to describe what Glazer has done with this film.

David’s rating Out Of 5

Alex First’s The Zone Of Interest Review

A vitally important film, The Zone of Interest is a deeply distressing watch, at the root of which is pure evil … and denial.

It focuses on the commandant of Auschwitz and his family living in the lap of luxury while victims in the concentration camp next door are ruthlessly murdered en masse.

Rudolf Hoss (Christian Friedel) is applauded for the role he has played at Auschwitz – on the outskirts of Oswiecim in Poland – for four years.

He and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Huller) and their five children, including a baby, have everything they could wish for.

They have a large home, a sprawling garden, including a greenhouse and a gazebo.

They have servants aplenty.

As Jews are gassed to death, they have access to all the clothing and valuables they could possibly want.

As if without a care in the world, they swim in the river and enjoy the convivial country life.

A keen horseman, Hoss loves his steed deeply and takes every opportunity to ride.

Meanwhile, plumes of dark smoke are continually seen rising into the sky from the chimneys at Auschwitz.

The top brass sees a bright future for the ruthless and practical Hoss.

Against his wishes, he is transferred and elevated to deputy inspector, while his wife and children stay behind.

In so doing, Hoss will oversee other concentration camps to obtain greater efficiencies.

He will need to bring the latter to the fore because Hitler has just agreed to deport 700,000 Jews from Hungary. Of course, he is up for the challenge.

Written and masterfully directed by Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest is based on a novel by Martin Amis.

The film starts and ends in darkness against a troubling music bed, which serves to illuminate the horrors.

Throughout the movie we hear barbaric sounds emanating from Auschwitz, which is but a few hundred metres from the Hoss residence.

Hoss is an unbending authoritarian, while his wife treats the help with indifference, at best.

She recognises what a perfect life she has and all she is concerned about is when her husband will find the time to take her on another spa holiday to Italy.

She even let out girlish giggles.

The performances of Christian Friedel and Sandra Huller are chilling.

Their children appear to buy in to the idyllic picture, ignoring – as far as possible – the dastardly deeds being perpetrated within metres of their home.

It is impossible to see past the atrocities depicted in The Zone of Interest, but these are handled in a way I have not seen before.

Much of the film unfolds through the power of suggestion.

The brutality is depicted through the carefree life of Hedwig and the children, in sharp contrast to the insidious nature of the Nazi war machine.

The latter only needs to be shown in a handful of scenes to become entrenched in one’s psyche.

And the final scenes go some way to highlighting the magnitude of what went down at Auschwitz and at other concentration camps during WWII.

Let us never forget that six million Jewish lives were lost.

The Zone of Interest is traumatising, but it needs to be seen.

Incidentally, the title is drawn from the term used by the Nazis to describe the 40 square kilometre area surrounding Auschwitz concentration camp. It speaks to the determined and disquieting sense of obfuscation that permeates the film.

Alex’s rating Out Of 5

Average Subculture rating Out Of 5

Other The Zone Of Interest Reviews

You can read our review of The Zone Of Interest that appeared in The Phuket News here – https://www.thephuketnews.com/the-zone-of-interest-chilling-normality-amid-the-holocaust-91387.php