Cannes Film Festival critics react to "profoundly chilling" Holocaust drama

The Zone of Interest marks the return of director Jonathan Glazer.

The 76th Cannes Film Festival - Screening of the film
The Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer with producers James Wilson and Ewa Puszczynska, and cast members Sandra Huller and Christian Friedel. (REUTERS/Yara Nardi)

Cannes Film Festival unleashed Jonathan Glazer's highly-anticipated The Zone of Interest on Friday.

Based on the 2014 novel from author Martin Amis, this one centers on Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife Hedwig, who strive to carve an idyllic life for their family in a house neighbouring the concentration camp.

It's now a whole decade since filmmaker Glazer gave us his sci-fi sensation Under the Skin, but judging by the critic responses online, he's lost absolutely none of that celebrated dazzle.

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A snippet from Variety's review reads: "It's a remarkable film — chilling and profound, meditative and immersive, a movie that holds human darkness up to the light and examines it as if under a microscope.

"In a sense, it's a movie that plays off our voyeurism, our curiosity to see the unseeable. Yet it does so with a bracing originality."

Comparing this World War II drama to an "abyss-black absurdist comedy sketch", BBC wrote: "Without wishing to diminish the historical specificity and fathomless malevolence of the characters, Glazer raises the question of how much suffering we are all willing to ignore, just because it's happening in another part of the world, or just outside our homes, or beyond our own zone of interest.

"He has made a masterpiece: a great film, and a great work of art."

Scarlett Johansson portrayed a silent assassin from space in Glazer's last release, Under the Skin. (Film4)

Meanwhile, The Guardian took great pleasure in the imagery concocted by Glazer and cinematographer Łukasz Żal, pinpointing "the pin-sharp, deep focus view from the Hösses' charming front garden down the path to the camp wall, behind which the chimney is visible against a vivid, hallucinatory blue sky: Höss likes to tour the horrendous compound on horseback.

"It really has the scalp-prickling quality of a bad dream or a fairytale."

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Poster quotes like "challenging and disturbing" could be found in the Time Out reaction, while The Hollywood Reporter labelled The Zone of Interest a "devastating Holocaust drama like no other".

Deadline also highlighted: "At a time where, incredibly, Nazism, Holocaust denial and antisemitism are back in favour in some corners of the globe including America, this movie is a reminder of the horror and the denial of that horror from an unusual perspective that should make us very afraid."

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