A single, satanic joke burns by the celluloid in Jonathan Glazer’s technically sensible, uneasy Holocaust film, freely tailored by the director from the novel by Martin Amis, a movie which for all its artistry is maybe not completely in charge of its (intentional) unhealthy style.
How did the placidly respectable dwelling lifetime of the German individuals coexist with imagining and executing the horrors of the genocide? How did such evil flower inside what George Steiner famously known as the German world of “silent evening, holy evening, gemütlichkeit”?
The movie imagines the pure bucolic bliss skilled by Auschwitz camp commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) who together with his household lives in a handsomely appointed household dwelling with servants simply exterior the barbed-wire-topped wall. His spouse, Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) is thrilled with the Edenic “paradise backyard” she has been allowed to oversee on the rear, full with greenhouse: she revels smugly in her unofficial title “Queen of Auschwitz” – and with simply that line alone, The Zone of Curiosity has most likely delivered sufficient nausea for a thousand movies.
The Hösses like to go fishing and bathing within the stunning lakes and streams of the Polish countryside thereabouts, though at one stage Höss discovers what seems to be bone fragments and darkish particulate matter within the river that has washed downstream from the camp and curtly orders his youngsters out of the water and again to their pretty dwelling for a wash.
However actually they reside in full denial in an enclosed world. Household life continues in all its unimaginable dysfunction, scene follows scene in insufferable affectless detachment, with the kids being attended to, the servants instructed, the Nazi wives gossiped with (they chat a few good gown salvaged from some “little Jewess”) Hedwig’s mom is welcomed into the home, and on a regular basis screams, shouts and gunshots are constantly audible from over the wall. They’re used to it. In the meantime, the SS officers talk about essentially the most technically environment friendly technique of mass extermination; we by no means enter the camp itself, although Höss indulges himself with a feminine prisoner in his workplace.
Maybe essentially the most beautiful shot created by Glazer and his cinematographer Łukasz Żal is the pin-sharp, deep focus view from the Hösses’ charming entrance backyard down the trail to the camp wall, behind which the chimney is seen in opposition to a vivid, hallucinatory blue sky: Höss likes to tour the horrendous compound on horseback. It actually has the scalp-prickling high quality of a nasty dream or a fairytale.
However the horror of what’s occurring begins to floor in aberrant behaviour: a baby sleepwalks and Hedwig’s mom is extra disturbed by this menage than she is going to admit; troubled by the reminiscence of as soon as having labored for a Jewish lady that Hedwig briskly agrees could certainly be within the camp a couple of hundred metres from the place they’re speaking within the stunning backyard.
Their grotesque household life involves an finish when Höss is ordered again to Berlin as a deputy inspector of the camps, however Hedwig calls for to be allowed to remain behind with the kids within the commandant’s quarters as a result of that is the very best place to lift the kids.
The movie, with its very good rating by Mica Levi and sound design by Johnnie Burn, has undoubted energy however may properly revive the talk about conjuring slick film results from the horrors of historical past: I discovered myself pondering of Jacques Rivette’s objection to the barbed-wire tracking shot in Gillo Pontecorvo’s Kapò (1960).
Glazer’s film is nonetheless, no less than arguably, within the custom of representing the horror not directly, like Claude Lanzmann and Michael Haneke. And the movie does attempt to accommodate Jewish testimony, although the ultimate coda sequence within the modern-day Auschwitz museum could absolve the movie of flippancy, however does oddly signify a sort of lack of nerve – as if the film lastly can’t bear to remain throughout the jail of historic irony and has to flashforward out of there to restate its humane credentials. But there will be doubt of Glazer’s give attention to an evil which creates its personal banality, the banality which allowed the mass murderers to go about their enterprise.