The Zone of Interest Review: Jonathan Glazer’s Thrilling Return

The Zone of Interest (2023).

The Zone of Interest, written and directed by Jonathan Glazer, is an unsettling juxtaposition of banal domestic life and chilling mass genocide, all nestled together on the terrifying landscape of Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII. Loosely based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Martin Amis, it’s a challenging historical drama boasting the laudable performances of Christian Friedel and Sandra Hüller in the lead roles.

The Good

Christian Friedel steps into the harrowing shoes of Rudolf Höss, the infamous commandant of Auschwitz. With uncanny finesse, Friedel humanizes Höss, creating a horrifying portrait of the man. Here we see a man whose occupation necessitates casual participation in an unthinkable crime against humanity. Despite this he retains a measure of chilling relatability. On the other side, Sandra Hüller provides a compelling, tragic portrayal of Hedwig Höss. Hüller gives life to Hedwig’s ethical wrestling and grappling with guilt and cognitive dissonance.

Despite its painful historical setting, Glazer constructs a film that holds the audience’s gaze and demands engagement, a tricky tightrope that’s negotiated without trivializing or downplaying the monstrous history that surrounds the narrative. However, some of the graphic content in the movie can be quite disturbing for some viewers.

Cinematographically, Glazer collaborates with cinematographer Łukasz Żal to visually manifest the unsettling duality present within the Höss family’s situation.

The Bad

One potential criticism of The Zone of Interest is that the premise treads dangerously close to exploring the ‘banality of evil’ theme to a fault. Some audiences might interpret it as too empathetic towards the Nazi family, in spite of the nuanced performance from Friedel and Hüller. Although it’s clear Glazer’s intent is not to elicit sympathy, but to dissect the incongruity of mundane life beside an extermination camp, this film could be more than just unsettling for certain audiences.

Moreover, the character development of Friedel’s Rudolf Höss might strike as monochromatic and oversimplified. In efforts to juxtapose the normalcy of the family with their unfathomable surroundings, the complex dichotomy of Höss’ persona doesn’t seem to have been explored thoroughly.


The Zone of Interest succeeds on a technical level. The set design and muted palette instill an uncanny sense of normality being punctuated by bouts of dread and tension.

The Zone of Interest is a profoundly unnerving yet important film that’ll push audiences out of their comfort zones. This is due to its depiction of the unspeakable atrocities and chilling domesticity during WWII. Jonathan Glazer delivers a powerful, uncomfortable, and morally complex film. This is essential viewing, a challenging reminder of the depth of human malice and the necessity of continued historical reflection.

The Zone of Interest stands out as a tough but memorable watch due to its committed performances and technical excellence. The film urges us to revisit a significant historical juncture and poses critical questions about human responsibility.

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The Zone of Interest
  • Acting - 8.5/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 9/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 8/10
  • Setting/Theme - 8/10
  • Watchability - 8/10
  • Rewatchability - 6.5/10
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About Caillou Pettis

Caillou Pettis is a professional film critic and journalist as well as the author of While You Sleep, The Inspiring World of Horror: The Movies That Influenced Generations, and co-author of Out of Time: True Paranormal Encounters. He has been writing in the entertainment industry for over seven and a half years professionally. Throughout the years, he has written articles for publications including Gold Derby, Exclaim!, CBR, Awards Radar, Awards Watch, Flickering Myth, BRWC, Starburst Magazine, Punch Drunk Critics, Mediaversity Reviews, Vinyl Chapters, Northern Transmissions, and Beats Per Minute.