Font size:



"The film would not have been possible without the Museum's cooperation.” Polish premiere of “The Zone of Interest".


On 15 February, the Polish premiere of the film 'Zone of Interest,' directed and written by Jonathan Glazer, was held at the Auschwitz Museum. The film, depicting the family life of Auschwitz camp commandant Rudolf Höss, was awarded the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival last year. It also received five Oscar nominations.

The audience comprised, among others, representatives of local authorities and institutions, people involved in the film's production, museum staff and guides, and journalists. Director Jonathan Glazer, production designer Chris Oddy, and producers Jim Wilson, Ewa Puszczynska, and Bartosz Rainski were among the notable individuals featured in the post-screening discussion.

"The Zone of Interest" was created in close cooperation with the Museum on various levels. In addition to consulting on elements of the script or set design, the overall significance and symbolism of the picture were also discussed with the Museum. The Museum also supported the filmmakers through access to camp documents, Survivor accounts, and factual consultation. According to the film director, "the film would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Auschwitz Museum."

'This project is, in fact, a nine-year journey.  It all began with an impulse. We were aware of our intention to broach this subject, but we lacked clarity on the precise approach we would employ. We visited the Museum, met with Director Cywinski and the historians working here, and began meticulous research,' said Jonathan Glazer.

'We searched the archives for any references to the camp commandant's family, upon which the film is based. The book by Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz on the private lives of SS men at Auschwitz was also an essential source for us. Through this, a gradual portrayal of how the perpetrators integrated themselves into this setting to execute their deeds unfolded. This became the central focus around which our film revolved,' stressed the director.

Glazer added: 'But rather we were trying to show it as something still in our world and still in ourselves as human beings and not an anomaly or some event that happened once and couldn’t possibly happen again. It felt very important to tell a story about our human capacity for violence.'

'Filmmakers come to us with their fully developed ideas and are astounded to learn about the script's numerous historical deficiencies, rendering cooperation impossible. Jonathan's approach was entirely different,' said Museum Director Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński.

He recalled the director's uncertainty about the nature of the film when he first visited the Museum. He invested a lot of time determining his message and the impact he wanted to make on the audience.

'Hundreds, if not thousands of questions were posed to our historians, encompassing topics such as the wall's thickness and height, the tree species found, the dimensions of the pool in the Höss family garden, and the plausibility of the radio model being manufactured at that time. I can honestly say that the precision exhibited sometimes teetered on the edge of madness. No one has ever asked us questions with such particularity before. The desire for precision was present at every stage, and it played a significant role in the setting,' he emphasised.

'The smallest details mattered, such as particular objects in the kitchen and the arrangement of items on the coffee table. These were almost like archaeological discoveries, providing a window into these people's lives. However, not only did we focus on what was inside their house and in the garden, but we also paid attention to what was happening behind the wall, despite it not being portrayed in the film,' said production designer Chris Oddy.

The director centred the film around the first commandant of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. The film depicts the daily life of Rudolf Höss and his family in a house with an idyllic garden located close to the camp but separated from it by this real yet symbolic wall.

'Upon viewing a very early cut of this film, which lacked sound, I perceived this wall as the barrier between the two worlds. Only later did I realise that this wall was not a divide but a bridge between these two worlds,' added Piotr Cywiński.

Producer Ewa Puszczyńska emphasised that we are dealing with two films: 'One that we hear, and one that we see. We do not show the victims, but the perpetrators. However, what we hear, somewhere in the subconscious, builds up a picture of this nightmare. We see a “wonderful paradise” right next to hell. This horror becomes all the more terrifying.'

'We pondered whether we were inadvertently overlooking something by excluding numerous situations in the film and opting not to incorporate a narrator who could perhaps guide us through the experience. However, the young people I spoke to felt the film and its atmosphere. I hope this all-encompassing experience holds the most significant potential to infiltrate the subconscious and establish a profound connection to this tragedy,' underlined Jonathan Glazer.

'We wanted to place the audience in a position where they could somehow relate to the perspective of this family. We would like to be as objective as possible - to be observers and anthropologists,' said producer James Wilson.

Another theme explored in the film is the assistance provided to Auschwitz prisoners by Poles from Oświęcim and the surrounding area who lived outside the titular zone of interest.

'It is a story inspired by the fate of Aleksandra Kolodziejczyk, who helped the camp prisoners, risking her life and that of her family. The history of Höss and everything uncovered about him was dark and pitch-black. It gave us no hope, and we looked for something to lighten that darkness a little,' said Bartosz Rainski.

As the filming could not be done on the historical site, the filmmakers had to digitally scan part of the post-camp space. Only the film's final sequences, documentary footage showing the Museum's work and the objects left behind by the victims, were shot on the Museum's premises.

"The Zone of Interest' was co-financed by the Polish Film Institute. The picture will officially be released in Polish cinemas on 8 March.

“The Zone of Interest"
Director and screenwriter: Jonathan Glazer
Producers: James Wilson, Ewa Puszczyńska
Co-producers: Bartek Rainski, Bugs Hartley
A24 Films, Film 4, Access Entertainment