Crimes of Humanity Through Children´s Ears: "Zone of Interest"

Crimes of Humanity Through Children´s Ears: "Zone of Interest"

By Bessy ADUT

Disclaimer: My reviews are usually best after watching.

I am back with another Academy Award winner film of 2024 “The Zone of Interest.” This definitely is a very interesting movie and has been in the media due to the differences of opinions. There have been arguments that The Zone of Interest isn't really a work of cinema and that it would be better suited to an art installation or something more catered to an audience open to formal extremism and experimental film.

Is 'The Zone of Interest' based on a true story? Rudolf Höss was a real-life German SS officer who lived in a house right outside of Auschwitz with his wife Hedwig and their children, and the film is a dramatization of their lives. The Director was condemned by The Holocaust Survivors' Foundation USA, for his divisive Oscars speech, calling it “morally indefensible” and “disgraceful”.

It’s an interesting film because we watch the events from a cold distance from the perspective of the "other side." Apparently, the film was based on a 2014 novel by Martin Amis, focusing on the life of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife Hedwig. They live a “normal” family life next to the concentration camp and pretty much ignore what’s going on next door the whole time. Christian Friedel stars as Rudolf Höss alongside Sandra Hüller as Hedwig Höss.

The Zone of Interest received five nominations (including Best Picture) at the 96th Academy Awards, winning two for Best International Feature (the first for a non-English British film) and Best Sound.

Best Sound is definitely a well-earned award because we really don’t see much of what’s going on at the concentration camp but it is disturbingly right there.

It is like many ongoing wars in the world right now, unfortunately, most of us go on with our lives trying to ignore what’s going on in the other parts of the world.

There is a coldness and a disturbing vibe throughout the movie.

Just the fact that we are watching a family having a "normal" family life right by the Auschwitz concentration camp, in an idyllic home next to the camp is disturbing as it is. We can’t really feel much empathy for the characters except maybe the children as they are innocent witnesses of all that's going on. Their mom Hedwig is focused on the flowers, and the pool in her garden and doesn’t even want to leave and go somewhere else when her husband gets promoted. Rudolf is just doing his job and trying to keep his family together. Only at the very end, when he starts throwing up, can we then see he has been going through a lot; living in a nightmare and being a monster.

Personally, the metaphoric scenes in the movie affected me the most. Spoiler alert here: closer to the end of the movie, when we see the cleaning crew coming and cleaning the museum - it hits us then, all those people with their children are now just sad memories from the past being exhibited. Just seeing the shoes of the people, especially the children, it really hits us. Now museum workers just come in and clean the place as a job.

There is a disturbing reality... Unfortunately, all that tragedy that happened in the past is an exhibition to remind people how horrific humans have the potential to be. Monsters can look like normal people and go on with their lives just by ignoring what’s happening.

Another thing I really appreciated was the metaphors in the film such as the young girl biking and leaving food for the war prisoners. It made a reference to the fairytale  Hansel & Gretel, where at the end they burn the witch. And they would leave crumbles behind not to get lost...

We don’t see many things but even from children’s ears, we witness the crimes of humanity.

What made me think about this movie was the finale of Seinfeld; how all the characters were found guilty of not doing anything about a crime. I think the Director was trying to say that. We shouldn’t be turning a blind eye and going on with our lives against any crimes or violence. We all should take a stand and not ignore the neighbors next door.

To sleep in our beds comfortably at night, we need to learn from history so that history doesn’t repeat itself. We should all be more sensitive and sensible about what is happening around us.

This movie won awards because of its unusual way of storytelling. It was very simplistic yet very complicated. Time jumps were very interesting. This is a drama that’s going to make you feel very uncomfortable and disturbed but it’s still worth a watch. I found it interesting because of the different perspectives in the movie. Feel free to share your thoughts about this movie in the comments section. Thank you for reading.

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