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“The Zone of Interest: Jonathan Glazer’s Astonishing Film Explores the Holocaust Through Sound”

“The Zone of Interest: Jonathan Glazer’s Astonishing Film Explores the Holocaust Through Sound”

Jonathan Glazer’s latest film, The Zone of Interest, is a remarkable exploration of the Holocaust that takes a unique approach by focusing on sound rather than visuals. The film, which has been nominated for an Oscar, delves into the atrocities committed at Auschwitz, immersing the audience in the haunting sounds of the death camp. In a recent interview with Jonathan Glazer, the British filmmaker discusses his inspiration for the film, his creative process, and the impact he hopes it will have on viewers.

Glazer, known for his previous works such as Sexy Beast and Under the Skin, admits to being initially hesitant about making a film about the Holocaust. He acknowledges the sensitive nature of the subject matter and the responsibility that comes with portraying such a horrific event. However, he was drawn to Martin Amis’s novel, which served as the starting point for The Zone of Interest, particularly the character of Paul Doll, a fictionalized version of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss.

To capture the essence of the story, Glazer made the bold decision to film entirely in German, despite not speaking the language himself. He believed that the truth and authenticity of the performances would transcend language barriers. The result is a film that immerses viewers in the mundane lives of the perpetrators, juxtaposed with the haunting sounds emanating from the death camp next door.

Glazer’s creative process involved rigging a house near Auschwitz with cameras and filming the actors remotely. This approach, which he refers to as “Big Brother in the Nazi house,” allowed him to capture raw and unfiltered performances. The painstaking process of assembling the soundtrack involved collecting field recordings in Germany, including cries from the Berlin subway and shouts from a football match in Hamburg.

The Zone of Interest is a departure from traditional Holocaust films. Glazer intentionally avoids dramatic plotlines and sentimentality, instead focusing on the banality of evil. The film explores the selective empathy of the perpetrators, highlighting how ordinary people can be complicit in horrific acts. Glazer draws inspiration from archival research, emphasizing the grotesque familiarity and ordinariness of the individuals involved.

In discussing the film’s resonance in today’s troubled times, Glazer acknowledges the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. He hopes that The Zone of Interest will transcend political propaganda and serve as a reminder of the dehumanization of the “other.” The film’s ability to attract a young audience is seen as a positive sign, indicating a growing interest in world cinema and a willingness to engage with challenging subject matter.

Glazer believes that cinema should be a radical political space, challenging audiences and provoking thought. He encourages filmmakers to be bold, radical, and political in their storytelling, using their platform to make a meaningful impact. The Zone of Interest serves as a visceral and intellectual warning, reminding viewers of the horrors of the past and urging them to confront the present.

Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest is a powerful and thought-provoking film that pushes the boundaries of traditional Holocaust narratives. Through its unique focus on sound and its unflinching portrayal of the banality of evil, the film leaves a lasting impression on its audience. As Glazer continues to push the boundaries of cinema, he reminds us of the importance of confronting uncomfortable truths and using art as a catalyst for change.

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