Jonathan Glazer has 4 feature films to his name and yet I'd argue even in his limited output he has clearly set himself amongst the elites of his era. While he is undoubtedly most known for his previous work the avant garde scifi film"Under The Skin" my first intro to Mr. Glazer's unique filmography was his feature debut "Sexy Beast" for which I have already reviewed. To say the least each of his features stand on their own and differ greatly in their tonality and show his constant pursuit of not only perfection but a deep exploration into the mind. It's almost unimaginable to think that the man once notorious for directing the iconic music video for Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity" also directed something as devoid of expression as this and if something like "Sexy Beast" is about love and what it is to be loved, then 'Zone' is about total apathy. "The Zone of Interest" is challenging, but the way it challenges you is not in the typical melodramatic fashion usually associated with the film's subject matter, nor do you see any of the atrocities in question being carried out directly. Glazer for nearly two hours forces the viewer to be confronted with the banality of those responsible with carrying out one of history most unspeakable acts and the view is anything but intimate. The film's approach is painfully clinical, cold and distant yet has an almost haunting sort of beauty that sticks with you long after its runtime expires. Haunting is probably the best way to describe so many of the films aspects, especially its droning sound design that Glazer carries over from his previous film. But today my focus is not going to be on the technical aspectsas there are already several reviews and interviews out there currently broaching that subject, nor do I greatly want to cover its themes as I think you should go out and see film especially given the somewhat limited nature of its release. Instead think of today as a casual recounting of exactly what is I felt after witnessing "The Zone Interest" for the first time.
As I sit in a mostly empty theater I am clenching my fists out of frustration, tears are beginning to form in my eyes as I am unable to comprehend just what it is I'm feeling. Behind me are my former coworker who in another life I had the pleasure of holding cable for during high school football season and one of his current associates, I turn to them after wiping away the bits of tears from my eyes and ask simply "Well what did you guys think?". After returning an even simpler "We liked it" we begin to take the conversation outdoors and discuss over the various impressive aspects of the feature including the aforementioned sound design and a few other clever anecdotes before cutting the conversation short as by this we were all thoroughly chilled by both the film in question and an unseasonably cold theater whose chilly air is now being kissed by the winter of northeast Pennsylvania. We exchange our final pleasantries and head our separate ways in good but somewhat uneasy spirits as the subject matter is still very much with us. There are only a select few pieces of art that have done this to me, one of which is above in Diamnda Galas' 1991 concert album "The Plague Mass" and each time it's happened I've almost had to run from that feeling. Which, to describe greater is almost like having to force yourself to move out of a neighborhood that while you know you could live in further, you don't want to for fear of what it may do to your emotional state. I don't want to sound like a prat in saying this but "The Zone of Interest"devastated me and this to say the very least is a tough review for me to write, least of which because of any personal connection to the film. Glazer has been my favorite director since I first watched "Sexy Beast" many of years ago as a college freshman in an elective film class, now close to a decade later he has once again shaken me to my core and forced me to reevaluate how it is I view film. The feeling of "what was that" which washed over me when watching "Sexy Beast" is very much there with "The Zone of Interest" but that isn't the only reason it has me so shaken. For a time I strongly considered a career as a historian, growing up I was a kid who struggled greatly in most school subjects but Social Studies was rarely one of them. Even now when someone offers up an opinion about the bleakness of the political landscape I almost always quip to myself "sounds like they should of payed better attention in history class". What was a tedious subject for most was one of a certain comfort for me and even now in my free time when not combing over the uncertain job market or watching a film I'm usually watching a video covering one of the Great Wars or reading anecdotes about the fall of Berlin and its aftermath. For a few years now I have been considering a journey back to that career path, however after watching this film it is not without a great deal of trepidation. In interviews Glazer has stated that he almost considered abandoning 'Zone' over the state and well being of his own mental health and well being and you can definitely see that effort to push through reflected within the film. I can only imagine what it was like for a man of his faith and history to have researched this subject daily for nearly a decade, much less what it'd be like for someone who isn't like yours truly. That for me is the power of this film, you won't be the same as you were going into it if for no other reason than it makes you confront one of the scariest truths about perhaps history's greatest villains. The elites of the National Socialist Party aren't terrifying because they carried out their unjust actions inhumanely but also because of how easily they could disassociate themselves from them even in the shadow of their greatest evil. We often look at humanizing someone with almost universally positive eyes, "The Zone of Interest" is that rare case of where humanizing its subject only serves to paint them in a more severe light and for me this film is up there with the 1984 tv movie "The Wannsee Conference" in terms of how accurately I've seen the banal social climber nature of the Third Reich's leaders depicted in drama. In a lifetime that has largely been spent as a horror fan there is nothing more scary to me than to see history's greatest atrocity carried out with about the same intensity as a middle manager deciding what banner should be hung up at a company celebration. In "The Zone of Interest" you see that banality woven into every spell binding frame of film, carefully crafted by one of the medium's greatest storytellers who paints his picture unlike any director going today.
Time will tell how history views "The Zone Interest" but if early reviews are any indicator it will be remember as one of the greatest historical dramas of it's time. It's impact on me will linger on and if I had to compare it to another film it'd be to another recent watch of mine in "Come and See". While the two don't necessarily don't quite match up thematically beyond the parallel of their subject matter, in terms of impact and filmmaking they do. "The Zone of Interest" will challenge you, it'll force you to confront several unspoken truths in history and it will remind you of the astronomical toll of humanity that was unjustly taken away on the whims of spiteful cowards almost 100 years ago. After watching you will be reminded of several occurrences today you might wish to ignore, but it is in my opinion well worth the watch, but only if you are willing. If it happens to be in your area or you eventually come across it on streaming please consider giving it a watch.