The Zone of Interest

The Zone of Interest ★★★★

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

This review may contain spoilers.

I understand anyone suspicious of Glazer's (and by very loose extension, Amis') concept of the banal horror machinery of Auschwitz as viewed through the monotonous ambiance of Nazi domesticity right next door—Glazer even takes it a step further by funneling it through the artful austerity of Hanake and compartmentalized architecture of Roy Andersson—but if that doesn't sound like a totally worthless/evil exercise in precision formal construction to you, I think this is about as restrained and carefully, masterfully calibrated as that idea could possibly be executed. There are a number of scenes in here I would imagine are going to be among (if not) the most upsetting of the year: the logistical contractor process of installing a new oven as if they were discussing the functionality of a dishwasher, the slow realization of ashes being dumped upstream from where the family is fishing/swimming (and subsequent bathing scene), the eerily subtle mixing of the sounds and smells of the camp wafting into the house while the wife tries on her new fur coat and lipstick from "Canada" or directly affirms and relishes in the power she has over her maid.

The true impact of Glazer's commitment to this approach though is not in a single shocking moment that you can viscerally feel sucking the air out of the room but in its cumulative effect. How it slowly and deliberately sinks you into its management of rooms; its routines, its pool parties, smoking, garden excursions, table setting, and lightswitch flipping. Which Glazer achieves by developing the unflinching documentary hidden camera voyeurism of the predatory hunting sequences in Under the Skin into a form of multi-camera uncanny reality (complete with meticulous historical recreation and 100% natural lighting) and methodically sticking to it with a sense of detached distance and existential dread; he saves the more abstract deployments of things like thermal photography and another intense, tormented Mica Levi score for only very specific moments.

By leaving the sheer monumental evil of this history on the edges of his frames and on the mind of every cut asking you to look away at something else instead, he actually makes it the only thing you can think about while you witness this family try to suppress the perverse contradiction of their daily existence that has resulted in this hypnotic nightmare of suburban comfort achieved via systematic genocide. Try as they might to psychologically deny their complicity and distract themselves with the careful maintenance and mundane everyday logistics of their home and job, eventually that poison, that sickness is going to make its way to the surface and be displayed for all to see. In my opinion, the two radical temporal cuts that Glazer opts to end on here are such an effective gut punch that they easily justify the entire quasi-art installation formal approach.

In a conscious attempt to avoid getting swept up in the dreaded Film Festival Hype (and because I like to punish myself), I will very likely be coming back to this later when I have more time to properly ingest it and see if it gets the upgrade.

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