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A wall between Eden and hell

A review of Jonathan Glazer's film The Zone of Interest.

SCREENS AUTOR 405/Samuel_Arjona 06 DE FEBRERO DE 2024 16:42 h
A scene from The Zone of Interest by Jonathan Glazer.

It is not at all an idle matter trying to define what a human being is”. Primo Levi.



I don't think there were many filmmakers interested in adapting the novel of the same name published by Martin Amis in 2014.



It was inevitable to avoid the controversy that the book, a very unconventional work, had already aroused. If there is a director today who fits that description, it is Jonathan Glazer.



If anything, The Zone of Interest has turned out to be an uncomfortable film.



The story is minimalist: Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife live an idyllic life in a house whose wall is that of the concentration camp itself.



[destacate] If anything, The Zone of Interest has turned out to be an uncomfortable film[/destacate] We witness the day-to-day life of the family, a home in which morality is blurred and where the vanity that presides over every conversation or decision of the couple has ended up trivialising evil.


The horror of the Holocaust is left out, we hear off-screen sounds that we associate with scenes we have seen in many other films, but Glazer is not interested in showing violent or humiliating images that move or enrage the viewer. He shows us the greatest of contrasts: the calm, fun and absurd worries of the conquerors.



It is shocking and outrageous that human beings can act like this, but it is a reality that has repeated itself throughout history, still repeats itself and will repeat itself.



Perhaps the greatest success of the film is that despite its specific location and time in history, it has been able to become a timeless story. It is a wall that separates the oppressors from the oppressed.



The biggest controversy in both the novel and the film is the black humour. Something similar already happened with another film that, with a very different, even opposite, tone, approached the Holocaust from the comedy point of view: Roberto Benigni's very popular Life is Beautiful.



[destacate]Glazer is not interested in showing violent or humiliating images that move or enrage the viewer. He shows us the greatest of contrasts: the calm, fun and absurd worries of the conquerors [/destacate] In this case, the black humour plays the role that explicit images of cruelty would have, but it is still strange to hear laughter in a room where Nazi nonsense is being shown.


The Zone of Interest is not only an uncomfortable film because of its content, but also because of its form.



Glazer offers, on the one hand, costumbrist images that bring naturalness and, on the other hand, shots in which, due to a forced mise-en-scène, end up being too pretentious.



He uses simple and very effective images that encourage a deep reflection and at the same time give us moments full of symbolism in which one doesn't quite know what he wants to achieve.



Another of its peculiarities is the music: conceptual and avant-garde, it alerts the spectator so that he doesn't settle in. Interestingly, the most recognisable influences in Glazer's work - Kubrick, Lynch and Tarkovsky - are the ones that unbalance it the most.



The Zone of Interest is a very risky proposal that reflects on the question in Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure ; who can understand it?”



Samuel Arjona, violinist, composer, singer and writer.


 

 


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