This is a brutal story of moral gymnastics.
People stayed in their seats as the credits rolled, silenced by what they had seen.
We follow the quotidian activities of the Höss household in the shadow of Auschwitz. A family living an idyllic lifestyle whilst Commandant Höss 'manages' mass extermination.
The shock of the mundane is in every scene.
There are deliveries that include luxuries taken from prisoners. Children playing in their swimming pool whilst plumes of smoke rise. Screams and gunshots from behind the wall. A child playing with gold teeth taken from the camp.
There is NO action from inside the camp, we barely see a prisoner, but we hear them. The family ignore screams and the permanent hum of the furnaces. We see signs of locals leaving apples for prisoners on work details. There are cowering servants in the house, but we do not see beyond the wire.
There are moments of unspeakable cruelty in ordinary acts.
One brother locks another in a greenhouse as a game and imitates the hissing sound of gas. The mother of the house threatens a maid with having 'her ashes spread on the ground'. The Commandant abuses a prisoner in his house, whilst his family sleeps in centrally heated luxury. Father and children swim in a river, until bone fragments and ash start to flow towards them.
The 'presentation' of improvements to the camp is absolutely chilling. A quest for efficiency where only permanent delay will do.
The film is beautifully made, shot in bucolic light against the grey of the prison wall. The soundtrack from Mica Levi is stark and disturbing, especially in the short dream (?) sequences.
The acting from Christian Friedel as Rudolf Höss is superb. He plays the duality of being vulnerable and murderous perfectly. Sandra Hüller as the mother, and the supporting family are excellent, especially the children.
My only note, is a jarring sequence towards the end with footage from modern day Auschwitz. This seems to be there to needlessly remind us that this wasn't fiction. This movie is far from holo-kitsch, and I didn't need to be prompted.
Zone of Interest left an indelible impression on me. There was no graphic horror. Watching people perform the mental acrobatics of ignoring their charnel surroundings is enough.