The Zone of Interest

The Zone of Interest has been in theaters since December and has emerged as another contender for the Oscars. Like Anatomy of a Fall, this is another foreign language film, only this time, instead of French, it’s spoken in German throughout.

The movie won several awards at the Cannes Film Festival, including the Grand Prix and the FIPRESCI Prize. It’s nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best International Feature Film.

Is it worth all the accolades? Mostly, yes, despite some shortcomings that I think are justified. No, the fact that the movie is spoken entirely in German is not one of them. Rather, it takes a surprisingly cavalier and nonchalant approach to the material. It’s a story that is grounded in psychological realism, and yet it never fully invests.

Each time I wanted the movie to give me some sort of psychologically churning moments about its subject matter, it wraps itself up in a lot of dialogue that, while admittedly well-written, also centers itself on one perspective as opposed to giving us something broader.

The movie is based on the 2014 novel by Martin Amis and takes place in 1943 Germany. Christian Friedel plays Rudolf Hoss, a commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp. He and his family live right next door to the camp, and yet they are completely oblivious to the horrors that are taking place.

Sandra Huller, currently starring in Anatomy of a Fall, plays his wife, who attends to the family while he does his duties every day. They have five children, but he is about to receive a promotion that will take him away from his family, which causes strife between the married couple.

The Zone of Interest succeeds at creating characters that are developed enough to keep our interest (no pun intended), but the movie should’ve done more with its examination of the camp by allowing us to see the sights and not be bogged down in so much dialogue.

I’m not saying that the movie should’ve been an unapologetic bloodfest, but there does seem to be a sense of ambiguity regarding Hoss as a man who does his job steadfastly yet is somewhat obtuse to the crimes being perpetrated.

Maybe that was the movie’s intention but more effort to show any remorse by Hoss would’ve been satisfying.

The movie is likely to turn people off who think it’s cold or even illusive of the Holocaust, and while those feelings are valid, the movie does work well at showing a family that has a sense of togetherness despite their unknowing of the dark truths next door.

Grade: B+

(Rated PG-13 for thematic material, some suggestive material and smoking.)

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