Cannes Film Festival: Holocaust drama garners rave reviews

Cannes, France –

Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest,” a chilling Auschwitz-set drama shot through a “21st-century lens,” has become the Cannes Film Festival’s first significant sensation by approaching the Holocaust from an unexpected perspective.

“The Zone of Interest,” which premiered Friday night to rave reviews, dramatizes the lives of a fictional German family whose beautiful home and tasteful garden adjoin the outer wall of Auschwitz. There, they live mostly peaceful, mundane lives while incinerators rumble in the background, smoke billows from the gas chambers, and muffled screams can be heard.

The father is Rudolf Haus (Christian Friedel), a Nazi commandant who designed Auschwitz, who lives with his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) and children. Based on the novel by Martin Amis, “The Zone of Interest” rigorously follows the daily lives of a family while tyranny occurs next door.

Glazer told reporters on Tuesday, “What this is trying to do is speak to the potential within each of us for violence, no matter where you are, and try to show these people as people.” Do it, not as demons. It was a very important task.” , “The great crime and tragedy is that man did this to other man.”

“It’s very convenient to distance ourselves from them as much as we can because we feel like we don’t behave that way,” Glazer said. “But we should be less certain than that.”

Following its premiere, “The Zone of Interest” rose to the top of predictions for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize to be awarded on May 27. ,

“The Zone of Interest,” Glazer’s first film since 2013’s critically elegant science fiction “Under the Skin,” proceeds largely without story in almost documentary fashion. It is almost perfectly installed in the well-arranged hallways and flower beds of Haus Home. Glazer said that he and his filmmaking team tried to “abstain themselves as much as possible, almost scriptless,” using 10 cameras at once.

“What we were doing had very little to do with acting,” said Hüller. That said, the process was more about being present.

Glazer tries to avoid movie tropes to bring viewers into a life they can identify with as their own, composed mostly of work, chores, and child-rearing. For Glazer, it was about “creating something in the present tense, not a museum piece or something in aspic.”

“It needs to be presented with a degree of urgency and alarm,” said the 58-year-old British filmmaker.

Haus is based on Karl Bischoff, the creator of the concentration camp. A trip to Auschwitz, in which Glazer visited Bischoff’s home, inspired him to make “The Zone of Interest”, which A24 will release in theaters on a yet to be announced date. He returned to shoot it in camp in Poland.

“There was never an option to shoot it elsewhere,” he added. “We tried to find a place to shoot in other parts of Poland, but I ended up back in Auschwitz.”

As in “Under the Skin”, Glazer uses a wide spectrum of techniques to create a densely layered visual and auditory experience. The score is by Micah Levy. The key to the process, Glazer said, was to avoid all the common traps of period films. The props were authentic but new. Glazer wanted “present day” accuracy to create “The Zone of Interest” through history to reach the present day.

Glazer is not the only British filmmaker with the courageous film formally out at Cannes seeking to bridge the Holocaust past with the present. Steve McQueen begins his feature-length documentary “Occupied City,” which combines descriptions of Nazi atrocities in Amsterdam with present-day footage from those locations.

For Glazer, finding new ways to make the Holocaust look real and immediately inspired her to create “The Zone of Interest”.

“It’s important to try to find a new paradigm for this so that a new generation can understand it,” Glazer said.

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