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2/25/24, 1:37 PM
Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’
Page 1 of 9
https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7
Zone of Interest director Jonathan
Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people
making Holocaust films’
As his Auschwitz-set movie wins three Baftas, the
director talks about challenging cinema-goers —
and the banality of evil
2/25/24, 1:37 PM
Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’
Page 2 of 9
https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7
© Ciaran Murphy
Sound steals focus from the start. In Jonathan Glazer’s astonishing,
Oscar-nominated The Zone of Interest, the atrocities being committed
inside Auschwitz are never seen, only heard.
Background noise also imposes itself when I meet the British filmmaker in
Camden, north London. The old-fashioned spaghetti house he has chosen
for us is blaring an incongruous soundtrack of upbeat vintage chart hits
that we are told cannot be turned down. I cast an anxious glance at my
recorder and hope that it’s picking up our conversation as well as Wham!,
4 Non Blondes and Toploader.
Lunchtime has already come and gone, but neither of us has much of an
appetite. “I had a late breakfast,” explains Glazer, a warm and engaging
presence. “It was quite a big breakfast because I barely ate last night at
that thing.”
“That thing” was the Bafta Film Awards, Britain’s equivalent of the Oscars,
where The Zone of Interest scooped three prizes: the unlikely double of
Outstanding British Film and Best Film Not in the English Language, as
well as Best Sound, a hat-trick that he describes as “genuinely
bewildering”
.
It’s the kind of thing garlanded luvvies say all the time, but it’s easier to
believe in this case. When it premiered in Cannes last year, The Zone of
Interest seemed formally radical and tonally daunting; that it is now
showing in multiplexes and attracting large and varied audiences is a
surprise to everyone, Glazer included. He duly celebrated the Bafta
triumph with his wife and three children, aged 23, 20 and 18.
The menu at Goodfare Italian holds fewer surprises. We contemplate
sharing a pizza but plump in the end for carb-heavy comfort fodder:
risotto porcini for him, gnocchi spinaci for me, plus side salads and water.
2/25/24, 1:37 PM
Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’
Page 3 of 9
https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7
“You’re not going to have the best food of your life here but it’s all fine,” he
gently assures me. “When I told my wife where we were having lunch, she
said, ‘You can’t take him there, you just can’t.’”
Glazer, it seems, is a man of modest tastes. Last night’s tuxedo has been
swapped for a distressed urban-casual outfit of rumpled black chinos,
well-worn brown leather boots and a ribbed blue jumper that’s fraying and
holed at one elbow. With his tumble of wavy hair, he could be a veteran
grunge rocker emerging from one of the area’s many rehearsal spaces. He
looks younger than his 58 years.
“I went to school round here — JFS, Jewish Free School — and I had a
market stall in Camden Lock when I was 17,” he reveals. What did he sell?
“Just schmatte, second-hand clothes, pipes, that sort of thing.” He now
lives in Camden and has a studio space nearby too but he grew up further
north in semi-rural Hadley Wood in a home where the Holocaust was not
openly discussed. When I ask whether his family was directly affected by
the Holocaust, he says: “The trauma of the Shoah violated the
consciousness of all Jewish families directly and indirectly. Mine included.”
In the past 25 years, Glazer has emerged as one of the most artistically
intrepid and celebrated British filmmakers of his generation. Although his
cinematic output has hardly been prolific — The Zone of Interest is only
his fourth feature in 24 years, following Sexy Beast (2000), Birth (2004)
and Under the Skin (2013) — he is also a sought-after director of music
videos (Radiohead, Massive Attack, Blur) and TV advertising. His 1999
commercial for Guinness, which sent stallions charging out of the surf, has
been voted the greatest of all time.
Our food arrives and, although unremarkable, proves adequate, playing
as it will only a small supporting role. That much seems inevitable, given
the film we are here to discuss, one that grips you with a nauseating dread
early on and never lets up.
2/25/24, 1:37 PM
Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’
Page 4 of 9
https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7
We start by discussing the 2014 Martin Amis novel that served as a
starting point for The Zone of Interest and shares its title but not much
else, the film bearing little resemblance to Amis’s flashy and at times
erotically charged prose.
“I’d been looking to commit to a perspective,” Glazer says of the film’s
genesis, before carefully correcting himself, a frequent habit. “No, that’s
not true. I was working on the idea of doing something through Nazi eyes,
from the perspective of the perpetrators, but I didn’t know how far away
that would be from the belly of the beast of Auschwitz.”
What did stick with him was Amis’s Paul Doll, a fictionalised version of
Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss. “There was something about him
that got me reading about Höss. It was mostly Amis’s source texts that I
became fascinated by and I just dug deeper and deeper.”
Embarking on a script, Glazer resolved early on that his film would be
entirely in German, even though he didn’t speak the language. “I did
spend the first six months trying to learn German. I went through three
tutors in as many months but realised it was absolutely a non-starter.”
While writing in German proved a challenge too far, directing the cast
(superbly led by Christian Friedel as Höss) from a translated German
script proved less of a problem. “There’s something about the truth — or
what you believe to be truthful — in a performance that transcends
language, is not limited by language. You believe the performance an
actor is giving or not. And language is secondary to that.”
The real conundrum was finding a fitting approach to a subject that Glazer
clearly viewed with trepidation. “I’m very suspicious about people making
films about the Holocaust,” he admits. “I was even suspicious of myself.”
The stripped-down style that he eventually settled on brings to mind
Theodor Adorno’s dictum that “There can be no poetry after Auschwitz.”
This is a work free of poetic flourishes, let alone comforting sentiment.
2/25/24, 1:37 PM
Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’
Page 5 of 9
https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7
“I didn’t want drama,” Glazer says. “The only thing that happens in this
film, in the sense of plot, is a man is going to get transferred from a job he
loves. He’s pissed off about it and his wife doesn’t want to leave.” He adds
mordantly: “And the ending is a happy ending because he comes back to
carry on doing what he loves. The detail is that he’s the commandant of
Auschwitz.”
Sharply juxtaposed with that mundane narrative and the frivolous goings-
on in the happy family home — Rudolf’s wife Hedwig (the outstanding
Sandra Hüller) fussing over the house and scolding her Polish maids, the
Höss children playing and bickering in the garden — are the sounds
emanating from the death camp that stands literally next door, as it did in
reality. Haunting cries, the sickening grind of murderous machinery and
occasional gunshots pepper the oppressive soundtrack, which was
painstakingly assembled by Glazer and sound designer Johnnie Burn over
a year. Nothing was confected: the pair collected “field recordings” in
Germany, including the cries of people in the Berlin subway and shouts
during a football match in Hamburg.
Borrowing from the lexicon of reality TV and adopting an approach he
dubbed “Big Brother in the Nazi house”
, Glazer rigged a house near the
actual Auschwitz with 10 cameras and filmed the actors remotely,
collecting 800 hours of footage in total. No cast and crew were directly
present.
“The situations are intentionally flat,” he explains. “I was really trying to
push the contours of drama out of the picture, knowing that that’s all
going to be in what you hear: the volcanic vortex, the turmoil of sound.
Trying to find a calibration between what you see and what you hear was
an extremely long and rigorous process.”
I ask how he arrived at this jarring audiovisual approach, arguably the
film’s greatest strength. “It really just comes from: how the fuck do I do
2/25/24, 1:37 PM
Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’
Page 6 of 9
https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7
this?” he admits. “How can you get to that abyss? When you feel it, you’ve
arrived.”
Hüller, I tell him, surprised me by saying that she didn’t find Hedwig Höss
difficult to play because she was so utterly untroubled. “That’s because
Sandra is so good,” Glazer says of the star, who is nominated for the Best
Actress Oscar for Anatomy of a Fall. “I don’t know many actors would have
been able to pull that off, if any, to be honest.”
But he agrees with her assessment of Hedwig. “The interesting thing is
that it’s not that they didn’t care about or weren’t moved by things or
weren’t emotional. Of course they were; they were human beings. The
question is not ‘were they moved?’ but ‘what were they moved by?’ And
that’s when you get into this very interesting area of selective empathy
which is clearly part of the human condition: how we value certain people
over others according to race or religion or political allegiance.”
Another fascinating figure is Hedwig’s mother Linna Hensel (Imogen
Kogge), who comes to stay with the family and is initially gushingly
besotted with their “paradise garden”
. But although she seems to have a
change of heart, abruptly leaving after apparently seeing too much, Glazer
rejects any notion of moral outrage on her part.
“It’s just the proximity,” he says. “It’s no different, to someone like her, to
buying your steak at Sainsbury’s and going to an abattoir. You know where
that steak comes from, but you don’t really want to be around a cow being
slaughtered or the smell of it, or have the blood running over your
shoes...there’s no pang of conscience, no redemption. There’s no
salvation in this film, and there can’t be. These characters end the way
they start.”
“Primo Levi talked about how they were made of the same clay as the
bourgeoisie in any country,” he continues. “They really were Mr and Mrs
Smith at No 26. They were our neighbours, and our neighbours would say
2/25/24, 1:37 PM
Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’
Page 7 of 9
https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7
they were us. Those were the basics of what I got from the archival
research: how grotesquely familiar and ordinary they were. What they
were interested in: status, family, health, holidays, possessions are no
different to the things most people want...The Hösses weren’t born
mass-murderers. They were teenagers in love with ideas about the future.
That’s how they started. And look where they ended up. There’s a warning
in that.”
This sense of alarm also arises when I ask Glazer what he felt he had to
add to the vast library of existing Holocaust films. “I didn’t know if I had
anything to add,” he says, “but I was driven by strong emotions and
feelings about the way the world was going, the patterns. There’s a rage in
me about that and I used it.”
It hardly needs stating that a project that began a decade ago now
reaches audiences in increasingly troubled times. And if the world was
already in a dark place when the film premiered last May, the shadows
have only grown longer in recent months. I ask whether, for him, the film’s
resonance has deepened since Hamas’s attacks on Israel and the
subsequent bombardment of Gaza.
“Of course with the timing of this release, what happened on October 7 in
southern Israel and the atrocities that have been carried out since are
absolutely front and centre in my mind. And the film can be taken almost
as a polemic by let’s call them ‘propagandists’ on either side. But I hope
there’s something about it that will chart its course through that, because
what it talks about was there long before and will be there, tragically, long
after it...It’s the dehumanising of the ‘other’
. But in this film the
perpetrator is the one who is truly dehumanised.”
One glimmer of hope might be seen in the fact that The Zone of Interest
has excited the interest of mainstream movie-goers, with Deadline
reporting that more than half of its audience in the US was under 35 —
2/25/24, 1:37 PM
Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’
Page 8 of 9
https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7
highly unusual for a non-English-language art film with an unstarry cast.
“I’m really encouraged that people are going to see the film, and that
they’re young,” says Glazer. “That’s a good sign.”
He enthusiastically agrees with my suggestion that the movies themselves
(and the Oscars, for which The Zone of Interest has been nominated five
times) are showing signs of growing up. The mainstream attention
garnered this year by the likes of Oppenheimer, Killers of the Flower Moon
and Anatomy of a Fall would have seemed highly unlikely even 10 years
ago.
“I don’t read the tea leaves of the industry but my experience of it is that a
lot of middle-minded drama has moved to television, and that’s left a
space. I also think the whole Barbie/Oppenheimer face-off was incredibly
good for cinema and some kind of catalyst. There’s a more interesting,
wider spectrum of quality, and people are more inclined to watch world
cinema, not just English-language movies.”
Now, he says, the onus is on filmmakers to further challenge audiences.
“To me, cinema should be a radical political space in this day and age.
That’s the cinema I’m interested in. Be as bold as you can possibly be, as
radical as you can be, be as political as you can be. That’s the opportunity.
You’ve got 200 people in the room, you’ve got their attention for two
hours. What are you going to say? Because if you’ve got nothing to say,
don’t waste their time.”
For the first time, I sense a tougher edge in the seemingly easy-going
former hash-pipe seller. No surprise: it takes courage and steel to take on
a subject of such gravity, let alone to do so with such formal daring.
Glazer’s publicist is hovering nearby, waiting to whisk him off to his next
engagement. By now our food has long cooled and congealed. There will
be no dessert, no sweetener. It seems fitting enough.
2/25/24, 1:37 PM
Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’
Page 9 of 9
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“It’s impossible for The Zone of Interest to do everything that was the
Holocaust,” Glazer says. “But in a way it’s the visceral, poisonous aspect
that I was going for. If it turns people’s stomachs, then it’s doing its work.
It’s like saying: You’ve eaten something that’s poisoned you and you know
what the feeling’s like, so don’t touch that fruit again. It’s a physical
warning as much as an intellectual one.”
Raphael Abraham is the FT’s deputy arts editor
Find out about our latest stories first — follow @FTWeekend on Instagram
and X, and subscribe to our podcast Life & Art wherever you listen

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An interview with the director of "Zone of Interest"

  • 1. 2/25/24, 1:37 PM Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’ Page 1 of 9 https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7 Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’ As his Auschwitz-set movie wins three Baftas, the director talks about challenging cinema-goers — and the banality of evil
  • 2. 2/25/24, 1:37 PM Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’ Page 2 of 9 https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7 © Ciaran Murphy Sound steals focus from the start. In Jonathan Glazer’s astonishing, Oscar-nominated The Zone of Interest, the atrocities being committed inside Auschwitz are never seen, only heard. Background noise also imposes itself when I meet the British filmmaker in Camden, north London. The old-fashioned spaghetti house he has chosen for us is blaring an incongruous soundtrack of upbeat vintage chart hits that we are told cannot be turned down. I cast an anxious glance at my recorder and hope that it’s picking up our conversation as well as Wham!, 4 Non Blondes and Toploader. Lunchtime has already come and gone, but neither of us has much of an appetite. “I had a late breakfast,” explains Glazer, a warm and engaging presence. “It was quite a big breakfast because I barely ate last night at that thing.” “That thing” was the Bafta Film Awards, Britain’s equivalent of the Oscars, where The Zone of Interest scooped three prizes: the unlikely double of Outstanding British Film and Best Film Not in the English Language, as well as Best Sound, a hat-trick that he describes as “genuinely bewildering” . It’s the kind of thing garlanded luvvies say all the time, but it’s easier to believe in this case. When it premiered in Cannes last year, The Zone of Interest seemed formally radical and tonally daunting; that it is now showing in multiplexes and attracting large and varied audiences is a surprise to everyone, Glazer included. He duly celebrated the Bafta triumph with his wife and three children, aged 23, 20 and 18. The menu at Goodfare Italian holds fewer surprises. We contemplate sharing a pizza but plump in the end for carb-heavy comfort fodder: risotto porcini for him, gnocchi spinaci for me, plus side salads and water.
  • 3. 2/25/24, 1:37 PM Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’ Page 3 of 9 https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7 “You’re not going to have the best food of your life here but it’s all fine,” he gently assures me. “When I told my wife where we were having lunch, she said, ‘You can’t take him there, you just can’t.’” Glazer, it seems, is a man of modest tastes. Last night’s tuxedo has been swapped for a distressed urban-casual outfit of rumpled black chinos, well-worn brown leather boots and a ribbed blue jumper that’s fraying and holed at one elbow. With his tumble of wavy hair, he could be a veteran grunge rocker emerging from one of the area’s many rehearsal spaces. He looks younger than his 58 years. “I went to school round here — JFS, Jewish Free School — and I had a market stall in Camden Lock when I was 17,” he reveals. What did he sell? “Just schmatte, second-hand clothes, pipes, that sort of thing.” He now lives in Camden and has a studio space nearby too but he grew up further north in semi-rural Hadley Wood in a home where the Holocaust was not openly discussed. When I ask whether his family was directly affected by the Holocaust, he says: “The trauma of the Shoah violated the consciousness of all Jewish families directly and indirectly. Mine included.” In the past 25 years, Glazer has emerged as one of the most artistically intrepid and celebrated British filmmakers of his generation. Although his cinematic output has hardly been prolific — The Zone of Interest is only his fourth feature in 24 years, following Sexy Beast (2000), Birth (2004) and Under the Skin (2013) — he is also a sought-after director of music videos (Radiohead, Massive Attack, Blur) and TV advertising. His 1999 commercial for Guinness, which sent stallions charging out of the surf, has been voted the greatest of all time. Our food arrives and, although unremarkable, proves adequate, playing as it will only a small supporting role. That much seems inevitable, given the film we are here to discuss, one that grips you with a nauseating dread early on and never lets up.
  • 4. 2/25/24, 1:37 PM Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’ Page 4 of 9 https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7 We start by discussing the 2014 Martin Amis novel that served as a starting point for The Zone of Interest and shares its title but not much else, the film bearing little resemblance to Amis’s flashy and at times erotically charged prose. “I’d been looking to commit to a perspective,” Glazer says of the film’s genesis, before carefully correcting himself, a frequent habit. “No, that’s not true. I was working on the idea of doing something through Nazi eyes, from the perspective of the perpetrators, but I didn’t know how far away that would be from the belly of the beast of Auschwitz.” What did stick with him was Amis’s Paul Doll, a fictionalised version of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss. “There was something about him that got me reading about Höss. It was mostly Amis’s source texts that I became fascinated by and I just dug deeper and deeper.” Embarking on a script, Glazer resolved early on that his film would be entirely in German, even though he didn’t speak the language. “I did spend the first six months trying to learn German. I went through three tutors in as many months but realised it was absolutely a non-starter.” While writing in German proved a challenge too far, directing the cast (superbly led by Christian Friedel as Höss) from a translated German script proved less of a problem. “There’s something about the truth — or what you believe to be truthful — in a performance that transcends language, is not limited by language. You believe the performance an actor is giving or not. And language is secondary to that.” The real conundrum was finding a fitting approach to a subject that Glazer clearly viewed with trepidation. “I’m very suspicious about people making films about the Holocaust,” he admits. “I was even suspicious of myself.” The stripped-down style that he eventually settled on brings to mind Theodor Adorno’s dictum that “There can be no poetry after Auschwitz.” This is a work free of poetic flourishes, let alone comforting sentiment.
  • 5. 2/25/24, 1:37 PM Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’ Page 5 of 9 https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7 “I didn’t want drama,” Glazer says. “The only thing that happens in this film, in the sense of plot, is a man is going to get transferred from a job he loves. He’s pissed off about it and his wife doesn’t want to leave.” He adds mordantly: “And the ending is a happy ending because he comes back to carry on doing what he loves. The detail is that he’s the commandant of Auschwitz.” Sharply juxtaposed with that mundane narrative and the frivolous goings- on in the happy family home — Rudolf’s wife Hedwig (the outstanding Sandra Hüller) fussing over the house and scolding her Polish maids, the Höss children playing and bickering in the garden — are the sounds emanating from the death camp that stands literally next door, as it did in reality. Haunting cries, the sickening grind of murderous machinery and occasional gunshots pepper the oppressive soundtrack, which was painstakingly assembled by Glazer and sound designer Johnnie Burn over a year. Nothing was confected: the pair collected “field recordings” in Germany, including the cries of people in the Berlin subway and shouts during a football match in Hamburg. Borrowing from the lexicon of reality TV and adopting an approach he dubbed “Big Brother in the Nazi house” , Glazer rigged a house near the actual Auschwitz with 10 cameras and filmed the actors remotely, collecting 800 hours of footage in total. No cast and crew were directly present. “The situations are intentionally flat,” he explains. “I was really trying to push the contours of drama out of the picture, knowing that that’s all going to be in what you hear: the volcanic vortex, the turmoil of sound. Trying to find a calibration between what you see and what you hear was an extremely long and rigorous process.” I ask how he arrived at this jarring audiovisual approach, arguably the film’s greatest strength. “It really just comes from: how the fuck do I do
  • 6. 2/25/24, 1:37 PM Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’ Page 6 of 9 https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7 this?” he admits. “How can you get to that abyss? When you feel it, you’ve arrived.” Hüller, I tell him, surprised me by saying that she didn’t find Hedwig Höss difficult to play because she was so utterly untroubled. “That’s because Sandra is so good,” Glazer says of the star, who is nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for Anatomy of a Fall. “I don’t know many actors would have been able to pull that off, if any, to be honest.” But he agrees with her assessment of Hedwig. “The interesting thing is that it’s not that they didn’t care about or weren’t moved by things or weren’t emotional. Of course they were; they were human beings. The question is not ‘were they moved?’ but ‘what were they moved by?’ And that’s when you get into this very interesting area of selective empathy which is clearly part of the human condition: how we value certain people over others according to race or religion or political allegiance.” Another fascinating figure is Hedwig’s mother Linna Hensel (Imogen Kogge), who comes to stay with the family and is initially gushingly besotted with their “paradise garden” . But although she seems to have a change of heart, abruptly leaving after apparently seeing too much, Glazer rejects any notion of moral outrage on her part. “It’s just the proximity,” he says. “It’s no different, to someone like her, to buying your steak at Sainsbury’s and going to an abattoir. You know where that steak comes from, but you don’t really want to be around a cow being slaughtered or the smell of it, or have the blood running over your shoes...there’s no pang of conscience, no redemption. There’s no salvation in this film, and there can’t be. These characters end the way they start.” “Primo Levi talked about how they were made of the same clay as the bourgeoisie in any country,” he continues. “They really were Mr and Mrs Smith at No 26. They were our neighbours, and our neighbours would say
  • 7. 2/25/24, 1:37 PM Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’ Page 7 of 9 https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7 they were us. Those were the basics of what I got from the archival research: how grotesquely familiar and ordinary they were. What they were interested in: status, family, health, holidays, possessions are no different to the things most people want...The Hösses weren’t born mass-murderers. They were teenagers in love with ideas about the future. That’s how they started. And look where they ended up. There’s a warning in that.” This sense of alarm also arises when I ask Glazer what he felt he had to add to the vast library of existing Holocaust films. “I didn’t know if I had anything to add,” he says, “but I was driven by strong emotions and feelings about the way the world was going, the patterns. There’s a rage in me about that and I used it.” It hardly needs stating that a project that began a decade ago now reaches audiences in increasingly troubled times. And if the world was already in a dark place when the film premiered last May, the shadows have only grown longer in recent months. I ask whether, for him, the film’s resonance has deepened since Hamas’s attacks on Israel and the subsequent bombardment of Gaza. “Of course with the timing of this release, what happened on October 7 in southern Israel and the atrocities that have been carried out since are absolutely front and centre in my mind. And the film can be taken almost as a polemic by let’s call them ‘propagandists’ on either side. But I hope there’s something about it that will chart its course through that, because what it talks about was there long before and will be there, tragically, long after it...It’s the dehumanising of the ‘other’ . But in this film the perpetrator is the one who is truly dehumanised.” One glimmer of hope might be seen in the fact that The Zone of Interest has excited the interest of mainstream movie-goers, with Deadline reporting that more than half of its audience in the US was under 35 —
  • 8. 2/25/24, 1:37 PM Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’ Page 8 of 9 https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7 highly unusual for a non-English-language art film with an unstarry cast. “I’m really encouraged that people are going to see the film, and that they’re young,” says Glazer. “That’s a good sign.” He enthusiastically agrees with my suggestion that the movies themselves (and the Oscars, for which The Zone of Interest has been nominated five times) are showing signs of growing up. The mainstream attention garnered this year by the likes of Oppenheimer, Killers of the Flower Moon and Anatomy of a Fall would have seemed highly unlikely even 10 years ago. “I don’t read the tea leaves of the industry but my experience of it is that a lot of middle-minded drama has moved to television, and that’s left a space. I also think the whole Barbie/Oppenheimer face-off was incredibly good for cinema and some kind of catalyst. There’s a more interesting, wider spectrum of quality, and people are more inclined to watch world cinema, not just English-language movies.” Now, he says, the onus is on filmmakers to further challenge audiences. “To me, cinema should be a radical political space in this day and age. That’s the cinema I’m interested in. Be as bold as you can possibly be, as radical as you can be, be as political as you can be. That’s the opportunity. You’ve got 200 people in the room, you’ve got their attention for two hours. What are you going to say? Because if you’ve got nothing to say, don’t waste their time.” For the first time, I sense a tougher edge in the seemingly easy-going former hash-pipe seller. No surprise: it takes courage and steel to take on a subject of such gravity, let alone to do so with such formal daring. Glazer’s publicist is hovering nearby, waiting to whisk him off to his next engagement. By now our food has long cooled and congealed. There will be no dessert, no sweetener. It seems fitting enough.
  • 9. 2/25/24, 1:37 PM Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer: ‘I’m suspicious of people making Holocaust films’ Page 9 of 9 https://www.ft.com/content/72cff8dc-94ee-4dea-8e13-a1bc4cfd60a7 “It’s impossible for The Zone of Interest to do everything that was the Holocaust,” Glazer says. “But in a way it’s the visceral, poisonous aspect that I was going for. If it turns people’s stomachs, then it’s doing its work. It’s like saying: You’ve eaten something that’s poisoned you and you know what the feeling’s like, so don’t touch that fruit again. It’s a physical warning as much as an intellectual one.” Raphael Abraham is the FT’s deputy arts editor Find out about our latest stories first — follow @FTWeekend on Instagram and X, and subscribe to our podcast Life & Art wherever you listen