The Zone of Interest

The Zone of Interest ★★★★½

Pro tip: if, by chance, you've made it this far into your distant following of Jonathan Glazer's long-gestating Under the Skin follow-up, The Zone of Interest, without having learned precisely what the film is about... keep it that way. The chilling clarity of the director's vision maintains such a tight psychological grip on the viewer with so little going on that those details are best left discovered in real-time. All you need to know is that Glazer's portrayal of banality in the face of atrocity is every bit the worthy successor to his previous piece of nightmare fuel, albeit an equal success in an entirely different manner.

Not since Chaitanya Tamhane's Court has a director taken such strong influence from Michael Haneke, only to mould that influence into something entirely their own. While that comparison may sound like sacrilege to those asserting that Glazer's is an idiosyncratic name without equal (as if being placed on the same pedestal as The White Ribbon can ever be a bad thing...), the power of his vision in The Zone of Interest lies largely within two factors: his clinical camera and the violent power of what we are only allowed to see in our imaginations. Sounds like textbook Hanky to me!

The particular nature of Glazer's off-putting visual style stems from a unique filming decision in which 10 hidden cameras were placed at various angles in every scene, giving him ample choices in the editing room to finalize his vision and, presumably, being the primary cause for the 10-year wait since Under the Skin. While you obviously can't tell from watching the film that 10 cameras were used at any given time—we don't literally get ten, or even two, angles onscreen simultaneously—the effect of this choice is evident in just how cold and distant every frame of the film feels, amounting to what can probably be seen as the most objective possible vantage point on this particular subject matter.

Important to note, however, is that while The Zone of Interest maintains a visual and narrative distance that keeps horrors outside the realm of literal depiction, Jonathan Glazer is noticeably not above casting judgment. The distant frame is only occasionally interrupted by a close-up, and when it is, it's only for just long enough to register precisely what we're seeing—be it the washing of boots or a young son's examination of a particular artifact. With this choice, Glazer shows that even depicting something or someone just as they are can be enough to condemn them, as not everything can be left up to perspective. By the time you watch the film and realize exactly what kind of people we're dealing with, your reaction to that statement will likely be, "Well, no shit!", but it's nice that Glazer has all but put a nail in the coffin on that argument with yet another decade-defining piece of cinema.

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[As a side note, this screening was also marked by my first fun little "celebrity" encounter. Just before the screening began, a young woman sat next to me, and I couldn't shake the feeling that she looked exactly like Ece Bagci, the young girl from About Dry Grasses. As it turns out, my instinct was correct, so I got to tell her face-to-face how much I loved the film and her performance in it! She seems sweet; I wish her lots of success down the road!]


2023 Ranked.

A24 Ranked.

Cannes 2023.
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