When I walked out of the AMC Century City after The Zone of Interest ended, I was quiet for a while. My mind was wrestling with the fact that I wasn't sure I would be able to say that I enjoyed the movie because the experience was so horrifying. But I understood deeply that this is an important film.

The Zone of Interest tells the story of a family in Germany in 1943. They enjoy together time, swimming, boating in a nearby river, and lounging in their impeccably landscaped backyard.

Yet all the while, right over the garden wall, mass genocide is taking place.

And the only clues we have to these atrocities come in the form of sound.

'The Zone of Interest' and Sound

The Zone of Interest is a historical drama written and directed by Jonathan Glazer. This cinematic work draws inspiration from Martin Amis's 2014 novel, which shares the same title.

The film is a collaborative effort among the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland. It delves into the lives of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his spouse, portraying their attempts to forge an ideal existence adjacent to the concentration camp. Christian Friedel and Sandra Hüller are featured in the principal roles.

This is a harrowing movie. Even in what you would call visually "peaceful" moments, the sound of this movie carries your mind elsewhere.

When we are seeing visually banal moments, we're being reminded that this family is adjacent to one of the worst atrocities of all time.

The sound in every movie is important, but here, the whole narrative hinges on what we can hear. Because after a while, we also become accustomed to hearing the horrors.

Jonathan Glazer told Screen Daily, “The foreground film, the one we see, is largely uneventful, largely undramatic. But it is imbued by everything you hear. And what you hear bears down on every frame. The atrocities committed in the camps are perpetual, so there’s no quiet moment. There are certain scenes which are all about the sound. In other scenes the sound is ambient. A writer used the term ‘ambient genocide’, which I thought was very appropriate to this and what we protect ourselves from, what we disassociate from, to have our comfortable lives. The sound was a huge part, the sound is the other film, and, arguably, the film, for me.”

Watching a movie like this takes a lot of effort. You're getting used to the lack of an inherent story on screen, but also adjusting to the story just beyond your sight.

In the film, when the wife's mother visits, she acts almost as a conduit for us. Her arrival and hearing of the sounds of violence shake us out of any stasis we've found hearing the death and destruction without seeing it. Mostly because she's reminding us it's there and it's not normal.

At the heart of this film, you get a study on the banality of violence and how apathetic we can become to it. Even toward the end, when we flash to the future, the audience gets an almost accusatory moment where we are forced to examine the way we let this atrocity wash over us and question how we remember and how we act.

None of this would be possible without the sound.

The Zone of Interest is scored by the screams, gunshots, and roaring furnaces.

Those moments will continue to haunt me. And I think that's the point.

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