The Zone of Interest

The Zone of Interest ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

“Zone of Interest” depicts the life of a German family who lived beside the Auschwitz concentration camp. It starts with about two minutes of a blank black screen but with sounds building and changing over that time, it’s long enough that if the sound hadn’t been there or changed enough I might have thought something had happened with the projection of the movie. It was an almost an uncomfortable period of time which focuses your sense of listening to try and understand what is going on and forces you to pay attention and to focus your sense of hearing throughout the rest of the film. The audio is very much a key role or “actor” in the whole movie.

One thing I noticed when watching was the way the film appeared visually. I think being a film about World War II I had perhaps expected to see filming techniques and lighting that evoked an older period but instead it had a very modern and non-cinematic almost documentary aesthetic. Reading about the filming techniques later this was confirmed by the use of modern digital (Sony Venice with Leica lenses), harsher natural lighting and basically avoiding all of the classic movie techniques to make it appear more like real life than a movie.

These methods combined with the soundscape have a real effect on you, sometimes subtle but sometimes a bit like a hard slap in the face, but also something that you need to take time to listen, watch, absorb what is going on as it’s not necessarily handed to you on a plate or simple to understand what’s going on. The night time thermal camera scenes for instance came with a jarring change in audio, both of which combined made me at first wonder if it was the daughter having a strange dream. Only laterally did I realise that it was showing a girl going out at night and hiding apples in the dirt of construction sites where some of the Jewish prisoners did work detail during the day – one little area of hope in the midst of the harsh Nazi machine that is represented in the rest of the movie.

This is not a movie to watch idly, but one that wants and requires your full attention. It’s definitely venturing into the realms of experimental cinema in some ways, defying the conventions of regular movies in general but especially in movies depicting WWII. Quite an incredible movie really and one that has had a great deal of care and consideration, so I’d say watch it and pay attention, most definitely worth seeing at the cinema if possible.

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