"The Zone of Interest" - Jonathan Glazer's film about the Auschwitz commandant - awarded the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival
The film "The Zone of Interest," directed and written by Jonathan Glazer, depicting the family life of an Auschwitz camp commandant, has received the Grand Prix as well as the FIPRESCI award at the 76th Cannes Film Festival. The production was created in cooperation with the Auschwitz Museum.
"The Zone of Interest" is based on the acclaimed 2014 novel "The Zone of Interest" by Martin Amis, which explores a love affair between an SS officer and the commandant's wife in a concentration camp.
The "Interessengebiet" (Zone of Interest) referred to an area around Auschwitz camp administered by the SS. To prevent prisoners from having contact with the outside world and eliminate witnesses to their crimes, the Germans forcibly expelled approximately 9,000 residents from that area.
During a press conference linked with the film's world premiere, Glazer mentioned that he had long wanted to create a story set during World War II. In two years, he read numerous books, but the turning point came during his visit to the Auschwitz Memorial.
"At that time, I was still unsure about what I wanted to talk about. I remember director Piotr Cywiński asked me what kind of film I intended to make. I replied that I didn't know, and that's precisely why I came there. After that visit, my thoughts about this film began to evolve," he recalled.
The film was made in cooperation with the Auschwitz Museum. It involved consultations not only on the script and set design but also on the overall message conveyed by the film. The Museum supported the filmmakers by providing access to camp documents, survivors’ testimonies, and expert guidance.
The film crew made many visits over the course of five years to the Auschwitz Memorial. Although filming at the historical site is not allowed, the creators were given the opportunity to scan parts of the area of the former camp. Only the final sequences of the film, which show the work of the Museum and the objects that belonged to the victims, were made on the museum premises.
"I would like to thank Jonathan Glazer for coming to us to listen—without any preconceptions, biases, or previously formed opinions—and for his ability to engage in conversations and truly listen with great sensitivity and understanding. I am grateful for everything he has done because this film will make many people reflect, and that is precisely the goal," said Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, the director of the Auschwitz Museum.
At the heart of the film is the portrayal of Rudolf Höss, the first commandant of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz (played by Christian Friedel). The film follows the daily family life of Höss, his wife Hedwig (played by Sandra Huller), and their children in a house with an idyllic garden located in close proximity to the camp but separated from it by a wall.
"I tell a story about the wall that separates the place of extermination from the idyllic garden. The wall shows how, for our own comfort, we disconnect ourselves from certain parts of our lives," explained Jonathan Glazer.
He also hoped that his film would generate interest among younger generations in past events. He emphasized, that "it is an enormous crime and tragedy that people inflicted such a fate upon one another."
One of the film's storylines also touches upon the assistance provided to Auschwitz prisoners by Polish residents from Oświęcim and the surrounding areas who lived outside the titular zone of interest.
"The Zone of Interest" film was co-financed by the Polish Film Institute.
The Zone of Interest
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Producer: James Wilson, Ewa Puszczyńska
Co-producer: Bartek Rainski, Bugs Hartley
A24 Films, Film 4, Access Entertainment