The Zone of Interest, directed and written by Jonathan Glazer and loosely based on Martin Amis's novel, has left me bewildered by the overwhelmingly positive reception it has garnered among critics. Despite its 93% rating on the tomato-meter with over 107 reviews, the film demands an excruciating amount of patience from the audience right from the opening scene, which consists of nothing more than eerie music against a black screen (this black screen and bed of music literally lingers for almost 5 minutes; for a moment, we thought a technical error occurred with the projector!). Unfortunately, this demand for patience persists throughout the film, subjecting viewers to a seemingly endless sequence of mundane activities that provide little narrative substance.
The plot centers on Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and his wife (Sandra Hüller) as they attempt to build a dream life next to the Auschwitz concentration camp. However, the execution of this premise falls flat, with the audience subjected to tedious scenes of the protagonist walking around his house, turning off lights, and engaging in seemingly inconsequential activities such as fishing (a shot of him holding a fishing rod lingers for 15 seconds). Other characters are seen doing activities, such as pulling weeds and playing the piano. These moments feel like micro-aggressions, contributing to the growing disappointment as it becomes apparent that the film is meandering toward a void narrative.
While I appreciate Glazer's vision to showcase a family living a normal life despite the father's involvement in horrific crimes, the lack of emotional depth in the characters makes it challenging to care about their circumstances. The film's occasional attempts at intriguing conversations, such as those about the implementation of gas chambers or work-related tensions, ultimately lead nowhere, leaving the audience yearning for substance. The absence of a compelling musical score compliments the indifferent characters and a wonky eerie bed of horror-sounding music that is repeatedly used intermittently as a transition throughout the film serves little purpose in enhancing the viewing experience.
The characters in The Zone of Interest are not only uninspiring but also profoundly unlikable. As they engage in a series of seemingly meaningless activities, the film does little to establish any redeeming qualities in these individuals. What makes their actions even more unsettling is hearing the consistent audible cries and shots from the concentration camp, a haunting and consistent presence throughout the entire film. Despite being aware of the horrors unfolding nearby, the characters remain indifferent, further alienating the audience from feeling a connection with any character. It is as if the characters, in their detached pursuit of normalcy, intentionally ignore the human suffering occurring. The consistent audible presence of the concentration camp's background noise becomes a jarring and disturbing element in itself. Instead of enhancing the film's impact or conveying a deeper message, it serves as a constant reminder of the characters' uninteresting moral apathy. It would have been intriguing if the film had chosen to focus on a character disturbed by the atrocities or showcased the events within the concentration camp. However, Glazer intentionally steers away from portraying any brutality, opting instead to solely highlight the seemingly normal boring lives of the commander and his family. This choice ultimately leaves the film lacking a crucial dimension that could have added depth and resonance to its narrative.
In conclusion, The Zone of Boredom fails to deliver a meaningful and engaging narrative, leaving the audience with a sense of profound disappointment. While some may find interest in observing the mundane activities of an Auschwitz camp commander and his family, the film's lack of substance and emotional depth make it a tedious and ultimately unfulfilling experience. Despite the acclaim it has received, I cannot recommend this film and sincerely hope it does not secure the predicted nomination for Best International Film at next year's Academy Awards.
|The Zone of Interest disappoints with tedious mundane scenes, unlikable characters, and a lack of depth amidst a historical atrocity.