Sandra Hüller in a scene from “The Zone of Interest.” A24 photo

Jonathan Glazer’s “Zone of Interest,” (“Sexy Beast” 2000) loosely based on Martin Amis’s novel of the same name, tells the true story of Rudolf Hoss, a Nazi commandant who ran the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in World War II Poland while his wife and five children led a passive, comfortable life in a pristine new home next to the camp.

The first 15 or 20 minutes are snapshots of the domestic day to day of the family. They swim in the pool, hang out laundry and pet the dog in the shadow of the smokestacks. Get ready, this is not the Nazi version of the American 1917 “The Waltons.”

OK, we get it. It’s horrifying, but the point is made.

Get past those shots, and the story starts to take on more layers. Hoss (played with fierce ambition and confidence by Christian Friedel) is given a promotion which will move the family to Oranienburg, near Berlin. His wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller), who has gotten use to tending to her lovely garden and choosing mink coats and lipsticks stolen from Jewish prisoners, objects, and suggests that Rudolf take the promotion but insist that his family get to stay in Auschwitz.

She gets her wish, and the promotions keep coming.

Hüller, who was nominated for an Academy Award this year for her performance in “Anatomy of a Fall,” plays Hedwig as a stoic, solid, hausfrau with an underlying greed that matches her husbands.


We also never see the liberation of the camp, or Hoss’s arrest and execution after the war. Instead, there is a time jump 10 minutes before the end of the film that will make you gasp and your eyes water.

Lukasz Zal’s cinematography is lacking in warmth but not in color. The lush greenery of the area and the bright red and pink flowers Hedwig grows are shown in all their beauty, and we immediately sense what’s waiting for us.

Here we see the black, grey and sense if despair.

Mica Levi’s (“Jackie” 2016) score is simple and spare. Glazer, we’ve learned, originally had a fuller score in mind, but cut it back to keep the sounds of the nearby camp more prominent in the sound design.

His film starts slow, but as the characters begin to show their colors, it grows richer and more compelling. “The Zone of Interest” is now playing at the Maine Film Center in Waterville.


J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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