Jonathan Glazer, filmmaker of “The Area of Interest”: “We need genocide not to be a calcified moment in history”

Jonathan Glazer, filmmaker of “The Area of Interest”: “We need genocide not to be a calcified moment in history”


Jonathan Glazer, born in 1965, in London, has only directed four fiction feature films since 2000. Relatively unknown to the general public, he is no less cherished by film buffs, whom he dazzled with Under the Skin (2013), a painting of an alien killer played by Scarlett Johansson, engulfing men who surrender to her charms in the black waters of the night.

In some ways, death is the occupation of all the main characters in Glazer’s films. Par excellence of the last of them, The Zone of Interest , a paralyzing and paralyzing work, on the daily life of Rudolf Höss, the commander of Auschwitz, captured in his family home with flower garden backing onto the camp. For Glazer – like Primo Levi or Giorgio Agamben – the Shoah, no more than the Gorgon, cannot be looked in the face. This is shown, literally, by The Zone of Interest , suggesting that Auschwitz is understood less in the heart of the camp than in the house next door.

Ten years have passed since the release of your previous film, “Under the Skin.” Is this the time it took you to make “The Area of Interest”?

I had been thinking about this for even longer, knowing that I would only realize it if I found a way out. After the release of Under the Skin , I finally had a clear mind to tackle this task.

Reading a review of the novel The Zone of Interest , by Martin Amis, was enlightening, because it highlighted that the book was written from the point of view of the executioners. I then read the novel, we acquired the rights, then I spent a lot of time meeting specialists and reading the Auschwitz archives…

The paradox is that the baroque tone of the novel and the ultra-distanced point of view of the film have nothing in common…

The book was kind of the initial spark. I was fascinated by the characters, but then I continued the journey in my own way. I still think that in certain places the triviality that I describe can join the grotesque register of the novel.

You say in the press kit for the film: “It wasn’t until I understood how to film that I understood what I was going to film. » Could you clarify this thought?

For me there was a real danger in using standard cinematographic techniques to film a Nazi criminal. I in no way wanted to take the risk of making it attractive, seductive, by adopting the codes of classic fiction. It was imperative to create a critical distance between myself and the subject. I also wanted the viewer to be put in a position to identify not with the victims, but with the executioners. It was only from there that I knew what to film.

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