The Zone of Interest Cannes review: Five stars for Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust ‘masterpiece’

Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) introduces her mother in the sun in her garden. Three years ago it was just a field, but now it has a manicured lawn, paved paths, a pool, a greenhouse and blooming flower beds. “This is a garden of paradise,” marvels the proud mother. But of course, the family wouldn’t have an enviable home if it weren’t for the hard work of Hedwig’s husband, Rudolf (Christian Friedel). “He’s under pressure like you wouldn’t believe,” he says.

The women’s quiet, middle-class chatter could hardly be more ordinary, but it’s made dizzyingly surreal and deeply horrifying by certain details they don’t seem to notice: the gray barbed-wire wall on one side of the garden. ; the barracks and belching chimney just beyond; and the constant background noise of industrial rumbles, the rumble of steam trains, some intermittent shouting and the occasional echoing gunshot. Slowly and steadily, without any big, sudden revelations, we learn that Rudolf Rudolf Höss is the commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, and that he, his wife, and their young children live a contented, healthy, if somewhat boring life. while thousands of people are killed every day a few meters away.

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Jonathan Glazer, the writer-director of Beneath the Skin, Birth and Sex Monster, has created a Holocaust film like no other – one that makes its point not by depicting the horrors suffered in the camps, but by excluding them. A chilling treatise on the banality of evil, The Zone of Interest is based on Martin Amis’s novel, but Glazer takes almost everything from the novel, including the plot. The domestic affairs he left behind are so restrained and dramatic that the film is like a flying documentary, except it is made up of beautiful, razor-sharp tableaux. In the camp itself, Höss is never introduced, and the nature of his work is hardly discussed, even when he negotiates quotas and payments with his colleagues. When Hedwig tries on a fur coat that was delivered with a bunch of clothes, and when one of the boys plays with gold teeth, no one discusses where the items come from.

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