Annie Markovich

Zone of Interest is a cinematic masterpiece. Director Jonathan Glazer uses sounds often as visual stimulus which can free the imagination to interpret what is happening. Sometimes sound communicates in a more direct way what the eye cannot see. In the beginning shot a blank screen addresses the audience.

Zone of Interest begins with a colorful, natural landscape of life; a clean flowing river beneath blue skies, fertile earth, plentiful food and drink for the characters. Rudolph Hoss and his wife Hedwig are living among other deluded characters of the Nazi Party. Rudolph Hoss as Commandant was responsible for the death of over 3,000,000 people in the Birkenau death camps. Hoss’s wife, Hedwig lives the “good life” in her claustrophobic denial of what she knows. Glazer shows the audience how easy it is to deny an evil right before our eyes.

Viewers witness the comfortably affluent life in the Hoss household; a birthday party, complete with screams from beyond the fence, a visit from Helga’s mother who cannot bear what she suspects and leaves the following morning, with a note for her daughter which Hedwig tosses into the fire. Three German friends enjoy black kaffeeklatsch and laugh about the personal belongings stolen from prisoners; a mink coat for Hedwig, a diamond found in toothpaste and dresses for her friends. The baby is constantly wailing throughout the film, gun shots fire next door, prisoners scream while smoke stacks belch the remains of babies, women and men. Throughout the film Hoss’ children act out their aggressiveness and exhibit worrisome behavior as a response to something they cannot see.

Hedwig is cold, indifferent and calculating and conducts her day-to-day activities greedily swallowing her conscience. When her mother visits, she brags about the “goodlife”; plants, garden and house. Local women who provide all the smooth running of the household are victims of Hedwig’s uncivilized behavior.

Is her denial more evil than Hoss’s blind obedience to authority?

When the film is switched to black and white footage an eerie glow casts a young girl as she distributes apples through furrows in the earth to the starving prisoners across the road. It is dream like and a ray of hope. She gets away on her bicycle unnoticed by the German soldiers nearby.

Climbing up the ranks of the Third Reich, Hoss’ blind obedience culminates in wretching and vomiting as he walks down the corridor after a Nazi meeting. Ironically, today this same “office” building houses the Auschwitz Museum with exhibitions of suitcases, prosthetic devices worn by maimed, old and broken humanity.

The bicycle and dress in the film belonged to Alexandria, a brave young girl who delivered the apples, she met Jonathan Glazier shortly before she died.

The film was shot in Alexandria’s home.