“The Area of Interest”: next to Auschwitz, an obscene tranquility

“The Area of Interest”: next to Auschwitz, an obscene tranquility


First, three minutes of black screen torn by the distorted notes of composer Mica Levi. Then, suddenly, a blinding light and the singing of birds; the perfect picture of a lunch on the grass bringing a family together by a river. These two radically antagonistic sequences establish from the opening the formal, narrative and ethical bias chosen by Jonathan Glazer to lead his fourth feature film, The Zone of Interest . Chilling and masterful film which adds a masterpiece to the filmography, as rare as it is fascinating, of the British filmmaker. Which, with this film inspired rather than adapted from the novel of the same name by Martin Amis, almost won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2023.

The highest award on the Croisette was finally awarded to Justine Triet for her Anatomy of a Fall , La Zone d’Interest having received the Grand Prix du jury. Like, eight years earlier, the breathtaking Son of Saul (2015), by Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes – a feature film whose immersive approach, with a handheld camera, stuck to the soles of a member of the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz, could not be be further from that adopted by Glazer. Who, for his part, is held a stone’s throw from the camp: in the villa and garden of the Höss family, on the edge of Auschwitz-Birkenau, in this area that the Nazis called the “zone of interest”.

These two approaches brilliantly test both positions which have long nourished thought and debates around the eternal question: can art, and particularly fiction, authorize itself or not the slightest attempt to represent the Shoah? Question, we know, decided with authority by Claude Lanzmann and with whom Glazer aligns himself. Since the filmmaker, unlike Nemes, chooses to keep his distance from Auschwitz, to show nothing of it in favor of its absolute opposite – the insignificant banality of everyday life – which, in reality, will have the effect of make horror omnipresent.

Home organization

Because what we are given to observe here is not the ordinary of any family. Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), the man of the house, is the historic commander of Auschwitz-Birkenau, an outstanding engineer whose talents he used to develop new techniques capable of optimizing the camp’s extermination capabilities. .

At his side, his wife: Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) – designated “queen of Auschwitz” by her husband – manages the house and its staff masterfully. To her goes the glory of having designed the vast garden of the property (vegetable garden, flower beds, swimming pool and greenhouse) which offers the couple a relaxation space where it is easy to breathe; for their four children, an ideal, perfectly secure play area.

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