The Zone of Interest

This film is set in the house and grounds of the Commandant of Auschwitz, during World War Two. Though the house sits right alongside the camp we never see the horrors inside Auschwitz, but we become increasingly aware of them through the sounds we hear and the activities of the officer and his family. It’s a stark and searing film, and one which sets us thinking about the way terrible things can happen while normal life goes on. We’re reminded of the phrase by Hannah Arendt – when she spoke of ‘the banality of evil’.

The film is shot like a documentary, the director Jonathan Glazer did not want to add any artificial lighting or use the usual techniques to add any cinematic style, instead he placed cameras around the house and garden to simply catch the nature of life there. However, there are two scenes where the look is very different, shot at night with a thermal imaging camera, monochrome scenes of a girl quietly hiding apples on work sites near the camp, food for the starving, left around so it might be found during the day. This part of the film came about after the director met Alexandria, then aged 90, who was part of the Polish resistance and at age 12 had left apples for the prisoners. Glazer described this as a simple, almost holy act of leaving food. A point of light in this dark account.

In Psalm 84 verses 5-7 in the message Bible, the writer describes how our lives can become roads that God travels, winding through lonesome valleys and discovering springs of water. May our lives be like this, channels for God’s grace and kindness, offering signs of hope, small and large, in world where too often the outlook can be very dark.

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