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"The Zone of Interest": A Movie Review


Blurb:  The commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, and his wife, Hedwig, strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp.


Christian Friedel

Sandra Hüller

Ralph Herforth

Daniel Holzberg

Sascha Maaz

Freya Kreutzkam

Imogen Kogge

Johann Karthaus

Directed by:  

Jonathan Glazer

Written by: 

Jonathan Glazer

Based on the novel by Martin Amis


What a powerful and deeply disturbing film. Frightening.

It begins weirdly with a hold on the title, The Zone of Interest, for a full minute, and then fade to black that probably lasted at least twice that long.

And then, a movie that reminded me of home movies. The camera always seemed to be pulled back just a bit too far, and paradoxically creating something very intimate and real. A real life of Nazi Commandant Rudolf Höss, his wife Hedwig (who is up for Best Actress for Anatomy of a Fall, and is possibly even better than in that film), and their children live by a normal, completely normal, life—swimming, eating, talking in bed, a birthday--until it's not normal. And I couldn't help but be deeply disturbed.

It's very disturbing that this beautiful home's back the outer wall of Auschwitz. That we continuously see the plumes of smoke rising from tall stacks, we hear gunshots, sometimes wails, and at night, flames crowning the heads of those stacks. All this while Rudolf Höss and his family have a normal life, and how they've come to consider their lives as normal. That it's every day that your husband brings you a full-length fur coat, and you know where it came from. That it's "what a clever Jew" when you find a diamond hidden in a tube of toothpaste, and ask for more toothpaste. That you laugh about it with your friends.

And that this family only gets upset about what is happening on the other side of the wall when they're swimming and find a jawbone of (Jewish) human remains. They bathe their children with lye.

That his wife Hedwig doesn't even react when he tells her that while he was at a state ball, he imagined how he would gassed all the guests. He laughs about it. She's only mad that he woke her in the middle of the night.

At one point in the film, Hedwig's mother comes to visit and makes a comment about how impressed she is with her daughter and her home. "You've certainly landed on your feet," which pleases Hedwig immensely. Mother takes the tour, seeing everything, the home, the garden, the servants. She wonders if the woman that she worked for is in the prison, and complains that she was outbid when she tried to purchase the woman's curtains. However, quickly, since she has not been about to disassociate herself from what is going on just on the other side of the wall, she is reacting to those screams, those gunshots. And when she is woken in the middle of the night from her room filling with bright red light, she goes to the window and sees the flame roaring from the smokestacks of the crematoriums, and the horror makes her fall back. She leaves early the next morning, leaving nothing but a note. Hedwig reads it, and burns it, and we are not privy to what it says. We can only guess her mother has been slapped in the face with what so many Germans, including herself, were able to pretend was nothing but a prison.

"Essentially, Glazer's A24 film makes you sit at the table for family dinner, lounge beside the backyard pool, and celebrate birthdays, right next to the site that would become the symbol of Nazi genocide. As lives are destroyed over the garden wall, the Höss family pours itself more coffee." *

Powerful, powerful film. Scary. Because it could happen again. Easily.

For that reason and that reason alone, please see this movie.

BEN'S RATING:  ☕☕☕☕☕☕☕ X X


Warning: The following is a complete synopsis of the movie. It's nothing but spoilers. Read at your own risk!

In 1943, Rudolf Höss, commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, lives with his wife Hedwig and their five children in an idyllic home next to the camp. Höss takes the children out to swim and fish, and Hedwig spends time tending the garden. Servants handle chores and the prisoners' belongings are given to the family. Beyond the garden wall, gunshots, shouting and sounds of trains and furnaces sound.

Höss approves the design of a new crematorium, which soon becomes operational. Höss notices human remains in the river. He gets his children out of the water and sends a note to camp personnel, chastising them for their carelessness.

Höss receives word that he is being promoted to deputy inspector of all concentration camps and must relocate to Oranienburg near Berlin. He objects to no avail and withholds the news from Hedwig for several days. Hedwig, deeply attached to their home, begs him to convince his superiors to let her and the children remain. The request is approved and Höss moves.

Hedwig's mother comes to stay, but is horrified at the sight of the flames of the crematorium at night and departs, leaving behind a note that Hedwig destroys. A Polish girl who lives nearby sneaks out every night, hiding food at the prisoners' work sites for them to find and eat. Höss apparently has a sexual encounter with a young woman prisoner who comes into his office and starts disrobing; no encounter is shown, but he is shown washing his genitals in a bathroom shortly after.

Months after arriving in Berlin, in recognition of his work, Höss is tasked with heading an operation named after him that will transport hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz to be killed. This allows him to move back to Auschwitz and reunite with his family. He vacantly attends a party celebrating the operation, and tells Hedwig over the phone that he spent his time there thinking about the most efficient way to gas the room.

As Höss leaves his Berlin office, he stops and retches repeatedly but is unable to vomit. In the present, a group of janitors clean the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum before it opens. In Berlin, Höss descends an ominous dark stairway, dwarfed by the looming blackness.

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3 comentários

23 de fev.

There is a style to this film that forces you to enter the blissful life of the Hess family and their servants. It's chilling from start to finish. The background soundtrack of chilling screams, gunshots and railroad cars arriving is horrifying. I mean ... this is a real horror movie in every detail. Showing Hess and his architect team reviewing a faster way to kill Jews (500 at a time) is so haunting, it will chill your spine. The real kicker is that this HAPPENED! I liked the story telling of Hess to his children; turning into a abstract negative film nightmare. In the end, Hess walks down the stairs and seems to be sick as he walks down flight…


The cold cruelty. Excellent story to tell.

B.g. Thomas
B.g. Thomas
10 de fev.
Respondendo a

Thank you for commenting! And how difficult to tell this story. I think Christian Friedel and Sandra Hüller were very brave to play the parts of Rudolf Höss and his wife Hedwig. And they were amazing, Hüller especially!

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