The Zone of Interest

DRAMA; 1hr 46min (German with subtitles)

STARRING: Christian Friedel, Sandra Hüller

Forsaking all others… : Friedel and Hüller

If proximity is a plus in a work–life balance, then by 1943 Auschwitz commandant Rudolph Höss (Friedel) has his career path sewn up. Not only have Höss and his wife, Hedwig (Anatomy of a Fall ’s Hüller), scored an immaculate house with an expansive, vividly blooming garden-plus-pool for themselves and their five children as a perk of his senior position, but the German concentration camp he created and oversees is literally on their doorstep — the rumbling of its crematoria furnaces a sinister background soundtrack on which nobody chooses to comment.


The juxtaposing of roses and dahlias with gunshots, screams and smoking industrial chimneys is a grotesquerie that requires no editorialising from Under the Skin writer-director Jonathan Glazer, who directs his attention to myriad prosaic details of the Höss family’s paradoxically bucolic existence. Although all tensile business at work, its patriarch and his unfortunate haircut is the embodiment of Herr Laidback at home, while his “Queen of Auschwitz” wife laps up the freebies (fur coat, lipstick, chocolates…) confiscated from the women imprisoned behind her garden wall.


Hedwig is living her dream, to the point where, when her entrepreneurial husband is duly promoted and transferred, she digs in her heels and refuses to go with him. Entitled and determinedly unfeeling, she is a made-in-Hades helpmate for a blinkered man to whom every atrocity is a statistic — with their detached conference talk of pieces and yields, Höss and his fellow Nazi officers could be running a chain of dress factories. It’s his flesh-creeping normalising of the unspeakable, adapted by Glazer from Martin Amis’s 2014 novel and naturalistically filmed at Auschwitz, that seeps through the lines of this precise indictment, building frame by meditative frame to a shattering impact.