"The Zone of Interest" is a Haunting Walk in Life

Title: The Zone of Interest

Director: Jonathan Glazer
Studio: A24
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: PG-13 (For thematic material, some suggestive material and smoking)

"The Zone of Interest" opens with a black screen and music that is so haunting you think you are about to watch a horror movie. In a way, we are, though it is not readily apparent. The black screen lingered so long that I was surprised that the first images I saw were of a family having a picnic near the lake. They are playing catch, swimming, and just having a good time. All the while there was a strange rumbling in the back speakers. It sounded like murmurs were in the background. The bass was so loud I was wondering if the movie next door was spilling over or if the sound system was broken.

Yet the noises continued as the family went home. When it is time for bed the family falls asleep to this rumble as well as what sounds like screams of women and children. As the movie goes on and we see more of the family's life, the horror of what we are witnessing becomes clearer and clearer. "The Zone of Interest" is not a movie with a straightforward plot. While there is a "what" the movie is about, this is a movie that is putting forward an experience rather than a straightforward narrative. As more details are revealed, we are faced with the nightmare that is this family's life: they live right next door to the concentration camp in Auschwitz.

The husband is one of the chief commanders whose job is to meet his "quota" of exterminating the people who are herded into the gas chambers and onto the work line. Both he and his wife don't think much about what he is being asked to do; from various conversations, it appears their quality of life is better than it was before he got the job. That they find it so easy to live their lives with the sound of death being heard throughout the day (and night) is a very telling fact. The sound is haunting to the audience until we are so used to it that we soon find ourselves tuning out as well.

One of the few objectors to the situation is the wife's mother. As someone who is coming to visit, she soon starts drinking in an attempt to ignore the inhumanity that is so clearly happening on the other side of the wall. The children too find themselves at odds about how to react to their living situation, and we wonder what kind of adults they will grow up to be. By the end of "The Zone of Interest," I felt like I had walked in the shoes of a life I couldn't possibly have imagined. In all fairness, the movie could probably be about 20 minutes shorter as it drags beyond the initial concept, yet the experience is one I am unlikely to forget.