The Zone of Interest Parents Guide

The Zone of Interest is a historical drama film directed by Jonathan Glazer, loosely based on Martin Amis’ 2014 novel. Premiering at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, it won the Grand Prix and FIPRESCI Prize. The film follows Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife, portrayed by Christian Friedel and Sandra Hüller. It received critical acclaim, named Best Film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and represented the UK at the 96th Academy Awards. Additionally, it earned three Golden Globes nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Drama.

Movie NameThe Zone of Interest
GenreHistory, Drama, War
Original LanguageGerman
DirectorJonathan Glazer
ProducersJames Wilson, Ewa Puszczynska, Jim Wilson
WriterJonathan Glazer
Release Date (Theaters)February 2, 2024
Box Office (Gross USA)$633.0K
Runtime1h 46m
Production CoA24, Access Entertainment, Film4, JW Films, Extreme Emotions

The Zone of Interest Plot Summary

In 1943, The Zone of Interest vividly portrays the surreal life of Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Höss, a man whose existence is divided between the idyllic facade of his home and the unspeakable horrors unfolding within the concentration camp next door. Höss, played by Christian Friedel, lives with his wife Hedwig and their five children in a picturesque house that stands in stark contrast to the atrocities just beyond the garden wall.

The film begins with a surreal scene of domesticity as Höss takes his children out for innocent activities like swimming and fishing, while Hedwig tends to the garden. The household is managed by servants, and the family enjoys the luxury of prisoners’ belongings. However, the chilling sounds of gunshots, shouting, and the relentless operations of the camp’s machinery serve as an ever-present backdrop, a haunting reminder of the sinister reality.

Höss, seemingly detached from the atrocities, approves the construction of a new crematorium, which quickly becomes operational, intensifying the macabre nature of his surroundings. His moral ambiguity surfaces when he discovers human remains in the river. In a disturbing display of callousness, he swiftly removes his children from harm’s way and reprimands the camp personnel for their perceived carelessness.

The narrative takes a dramatic turn when Höss receives news of his promotion to deputy inspector of all concentration camps, forcing him to relocate to Oranienburg near Berlin. He withholds this information from Hedwig, whose deep attachment to their home compels her to plead for permission to stay. Despite her pleas being granted, Höss moves out, leaving Hedwig to navigate the unsettling atmosphere with the help of her mother, who, horrified by the camp, leaves abruptly one night.

In a surprising twist, the film introduces a Polish girl from the neighborhood who covertly aids the prisoners by sneaking out every night to leave food at their work sites. Her acts of defiance add a layer of humanity amid the dehumanizing surroundings.

Months later, Höss, now in Berlin, is tasked with heading an operation to transport hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz for extermination. This sinister mission allows him to return to Auschwitz and reunite with his family. However, his emotional distance becomes palpable as he vacantly attends a party celebrating the operation and confesses to Hedwig over the phone about his contemplations on the most efficient way to gas the room.

As Höss leaves his Berlin office, a disturbing physical manifestation of his internal turmoil is depicted as he stops to retch repeatedly but is unable to vomit. The film concludes with a chilling juxtaposition of the present day, showing janitors cleaning the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum before it opens, and Höss descending down a dark stairway in Berlin, disappearing from view.

The Zone of Interest masterfully delves into the moral complexities of human behavior within the most inhumane of circumstances, providing a haunting exploration of one man’s descent into darkness amid the backdrop of one of history’s darkest chapters.”

The Zone of Interest Parents Guide

Why is The Zone of Interest rated PG-13?

The Zone of Interest is rated PG-13 due to intense depictions of Holocaust-related themes, disturbing imagery, brief nudity, and the emotionally charged atmosphere.

  • violence: The film depicts intense scenes related to the Holocaust, with disturbing visuals of Auschwitz and its operations. While violence is not explicitly shown, the subject matter is emotionally intense and may be distressing for younger viewers.
  • Disturbing Themes: “The Zone of Interest” explores morally complex themes, including the ethical dilemmas faced by the characters in the context of a concentration camp. The film does not shy away from the harsh realities of this historical period, which may be unsettling for sensitive audiences.
  • Brief Nudity: There are brief scenes depicting nudity, primarily in the context of the prisoners’ living conditions. However, explicit content is limited, and the focus is more on the emotional impact rather than gratuitous visuals.
  • Language: Mild language may be present, but it is infrequent and contextually related to the wartime setting.
  • Overall Atmosphere: The film maintains a somber and intense atmosphere throughout, reflecting the gravity of its historical context. Parents are advised to consider their children’s maturity and sensitivity to historical themes before viewing.
  • Parental Guidance Recommended: Due to the heavy subject matter and emotional intensity, “The Zone of Interest” is recommended for viewers aged 13 and above. Parental guidance is encouraged to facilitate discussions about the historical events depicted in the film.

Cast of The Zone of Interest Film

  • Christian Friedel as Rudolf Höss
  • Sandra Hüller as Hedwig Höss
  • Ralph Herforth as Oswald Pohl
  • Johann Karthaus as Claus Höss
  • Luis Noah Witte as Hans Höss
  • Nele Ahrensmeier as Inge-Brigitt Höss
  • Lilli Falk as Heideraud Höss
  • Medusa Knopf as Elfryda

Key Points:

  • Premiered at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, winning the Grand Prix and FIPRESCI Prize.
  • Follows Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his morally complex life.
  • Highlights the surreal contrast between Höss’s idyllic home life and the horrors of the concentration camp.
  • Höss’s emotional distance intensifies as he undertakes a sinister mission and contemplates efficient methods of extermination.
  • The film skillfully explores the moral dilemmas faced by characters in the context of a concentration camp.
  • Rated PG-13 for intense Holocaust-related themes, disturbing imagery, brief nudity, and an emotionally charged atmosphere.