For many film lovers these days the cinema has become a place of action blockbusters, epic stunts and superhero franchises. But all of that seems to change when the world’s focus turns to Awards season. Over the next month or so we are going to see a range of this year’s Oscar nominated films – and for the lovers of really serious cinema you are in for an absolute treat this year.

One such film is the brand new film from Oscar nominated director Jonathan Glazer (Birth) who just like Steven Spielberg did with Schindler’s List delves into the dark history of the Holocaust and has delivered an absolute masterpiece in the form of The Zone of Interest.

The focus of The Zone Of Interest is on perhaps one of the most evil men of the Nazi regime, Rudolf Hoss (Christian Friedel – The White Ribbon), the man who was responsible for planning, building and running Auschwitz.

The film explores that while the atrocities of one of the most notorious concentration camps were occurring next door, in what almost seemed like a country villa, the Hoss family and their staff went about their daily business like nothing was wrong at all.

During these days the kids played happily, Rudolf took meetings with some of the Nazi Party’s top brass while his wife, Hedwig (Sandra Huller – Anatomy Of A Fall), takes pride in her own design – a beautiful garden that is lauded by all those who visit it.

There is no way to say it nicely – despite its brilliance The Zone Of Interest is an unsettling film to watch. Like The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and Schindler’s List before it this is a film that makes its audience feel uncomfortable while they remain focussed on the screen. As an audience member you find yourself wanting to look away from the screen, or due to the film’s soundscape cover your ears, but such is the genius of Glazer’s work you find yourself enchanted by it.

Part of the brilliance of the film is the fact that Glazer, who acts as both director and screenwriter on this film, never allows the audience to see what is happening inside Auschwitz. Instead we see the Hoss children playing in the pool or Hedwig working in the garden while we hear gunshots, screaming and dogs barking coming from beyond the fence next door. Even the sound of the industrial noises can cause an unsettling effect on the audience because you know what kind of ‘factory’ it really is.

Teaming up with Glazer brilliantly is also cinematographer Lukasz Zal (Ida) who delivers some haunting shots of Auschwitz’s chimneys spewing out smoke and ash in the background of the Hoss family enjoying the beauty of their garden. There perhaps has never been a more stunning way of capturing hell being next door to heaven then the way Zal and Glazer depict this garden being right next door to one of the most horrific places in human history.

While The Zone Of Interest is clearly one of the best movies of 2024 the film does have a major flaw though. Towards the end of the film, when Hoss is relocated, the film moves away from the Hoss family home far too often and these scenes seem to lack the brilliance of those that have come before it. Having said that though some of the films most dramatic scenes come in the lead up to that move when Hoss is explaining to his wife why he has to go while Hedwig is refusing to leave the amazing garden she has built.

Also helping making The Zone of Interest a masterpiece are the performances of Sandra Huller and Christian Fiedel. It is never easy to bring a human side to a monster like Hoss yet Friedel does that remarkably well and perhaps one of the most horrifying parts of this film for the audience is the fact that you walk out of the cinema feeling like you understand Hoss a little more as a human.

Backing up from her stunning performance in The Anatomy Of A Fall Sandra Huller also shines in this film. Her portrayal of Hedwig is amazing and leads the audience to ask one question – was she aware of the atrocities happening next to her garden and ignoring it or was she so focussed on her piece of paradise that she was blissfully unaware of all around her.

The Zone Of Interest may not be an easy film to watch but for lovers of arthouse cinema it is a must see. It feels weird describing a film as harrowing yet beautiful yet that is the only way to describe what Glazer has done with this film.

4.5/5 Stars