Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife Hedwig strive to build a dream life for their family in a house with a garden next to the camp.
Although less infamous than “the final solution”, the expression “zone of interest” (interessengebiet in German), used by the Nazi SS to describe the 40 square kilometer perimeter surrounding the Auschwitz concentration camp on the outskirts from Oświęcim in Poland – demonstrates the same feeling of decidedly precise and disturbing obfuscation. This is a euphemism used with lethal intent. In 2014, the late Martin Amis used these words for the title of his novel, the action of which takes place in and around the camp.
In his film adaptation, Jonathan Glazer maps the geographic and psychic terrain of the area and its inhabitants with chilling precision. “It was about creating an arena,” says the director, whose production process involved construction work and filming on location in Poland, as well as the use of a network of surveillance cameras to capturing multiple sequences staged simultaneously in the same building: “I regularly used the expression ‘Big Brother among the Nazis.’
“Of course we couldn’t do it, but the idea was to observe people in their daily lives. I wanted to capture the contrast between someone pouring a cup of coffee in their kitchen and someone to be assassinated on the other side of the wall, the coexistence of these two extremes.”