A new Jonathan Glazer film is, at this point, an event. The cult British filmmaker does not spend too much time: ‘The Zone of Interest’ is only his fourth feature film since he debuted in 2000 with ‘Sexy Beast’, where one already sensed an artist with a unique vision.
Before that, he was dedicated to directing music videos, having directed the legendary music video for ‘Karma Police’ by Radiohead, ‘Karmacoma’ by Massive Attack and ‘The Universal’ by Blur. Now, he returns to movie theaters with what is his first film since the controversial ‘Under the Skin’ in 2013, the work that definitively catapulted him as one of the most unique voices in contemporary arthouse cinema.
‘The area of interest’ is preceded by the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes and various recognitions throughout the awards season. Although for this reason one should not expect that Glazer has made a conventional film, as nothing could be further from the truth. The film orbits around a very powerful concept: evil done routinely with tragedy permanently off-screen.
Set during the Second World War, the focus is always on the family of a Nazi commander who lives in a large house with a garden a few meters from the Auschwitz concentration camp. All they seek is to continue living a dream life, completely oblivious and unfazed by the horror that surrounds them.
What the filmmaker proposes, adapting the novel of the same name by Martin Amis, is a dissection of evil from within and without ever showing brutality directly. The film never abandons the German family nor does it show any Jewish characters. Instead, the device Glazer uses to represent horror is sound design. A section that deserves all possible praise since, together with the Briton’s always impressive visual work, it builds an absolutely disturbing and uncomfortable atmosphere. Part of the credit also goes to Mica Levi and her extraordinary soundtrack, which here shines with its own light as she already did in ‘Under the Skin’.
‘The area of interest’ begins with a long black shot where the artist’s disturbing music is heard and ends up merging with the idyllic sound of birds and nature. The nightmare is always hovering in the environment and although we do not see it, we hear it and feel it. Such is the rigor of Glazer’s concept and staging that it sometimes ends up working against him, as he tends to stagnate discursively in a frustrating way. The intended coldness of the proposal ends up being slightly corseted, and becomes somewhat one-dimensional in its obvious game of complicity with the viewer.
Nevertheless, the film is full of powerful ideas and stimulating formal decisions. It is a serious, disturbing and brave work when it comes to taking narrative risks, as in that kind of epilogue that, if at first it generates confusion, then compensates for it by integrating it perfectly with an idea as simple as it is brilliant. Glazer still has no intention of making films for all audiences, and thanks to this he gives us films like this one, which, although far from being perfect, gives rise to inexhaustible reflections and debates.