We finally watched The Zone of Interest!

MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2024

Saying what we saw: Over the weekend, we finally saw The Zone of Interest. The leading authority on the film offers this overview:

The Zone of Interest is a 2023 historical drama film written and directed by Jonathan Glazer...Loosely based on the 2014 novel by Martin Amis, the film focuses on the life of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf HΓΆss and his wife Hedwig, who live with their family in a home in the "Zone of Interest" next to the concentration camp.

Such was the subject matter. At this year's Oscars, it was nominated for Best Picture. It won the Oscar for Best International Feature.

On the whole, the film was very favorably reviewed, but there were also some dissenters and disagreements. To wit:

At the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday gave it four stars out of four, as you can see right here. (Long ago, we became a fan for life when she praised the girl-friendly classic, Blue Crush.)

 At the New York Times, the formal review by Mahnola Dargis appears online beneath this dual headline. Things go downhill from there:

‘The Zone of Interest’ Review: The Holocaust, Reduced to Background Noise
Jonathan Glazer has made a hollow, self-aggrandizing art-film exercise set in Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

That sounds like very few stars. Below, you see the headline which appeared in print editions, along with the end of the Dargis review:

Ignoring The Abyss That Sits Next Door


In “The Zone of Interest,” Glazer doesn’t simply tell a story; in his use of art-film conventions he provides a specific frame through which to watch it. This is clearly part of its attraction as is the breathing space his approach creates: it is scary, but not too.

These conventions can create a sense of intellectual distance and serve as a critique, or that’s the idea. They also announce (fairly or not) a filmmaker’s aesthetic bona fides, seriousness, sophistication and familiarity with a comparatively rarefied cinematic tradition. They signal that the film you’re watching is different from popular ones made for a mass audience. These conventions are markers of distinction, of quality, which flatter filmmakers and viewers alike, and which finally seem to me to be the biggest point of this vacuous movie.

In Dargis' view, the director's high-end pomposity and flattery seem to be the biggest point of "his vacuous film."

That review was extremely negative. That doesn't mean it was "wrong."

Three months later, perhaps in a bit of a make-good call, the Times published a guest essay by David Klion—an essay praising the film. 

Yesterday, we read the essay after watching the film. The following passage reinforced what we ourselves had thought as we sat and watched:

The Oscar Contender That Won’t Let Us Look Away


While the film does not ask that we empathize with the HΓΆsses, the conventions of storytelling dictate that we can’t help but identify with them. Some critics have called this approach hollow or even kitschy, an over-aestheticized art house stunt that tells us nothing new about Auschwitz. “The Zone of Interest” has made many of its more sympathetic critics uncomfortable, and that’s by design. “For me, this is not a film about the past,” Mr. Glazer told The Guardian. “It’s trying to be about now, and about us and our similarity to the perpetrators, not our similarity to the victims.”

The film isn't about those perpetrators, the director had said. The film is about us. The film is about our own similarity to them!

That was largely what we drew away as we watched the slow-moving film with the largely illegible subtitles. 

Those perpetrators built up walls to block their view of their victims and of their own behavior. That's the role our current tribal clans routinely play, even for us all tangled up in Blue, on this side of so many walls.

We look away from Gotham's lower-income public school kids. We look away from the (almost wholly) disregarded people in Gaza.

Instead, we posture and pose and we preen and perform. We may do some whistling of our own. In such ways, we cement ourselves as the good and decent, plainly intelligent people. 

Even here among us Blues, we tend to avert our gaze from the disregarded. Those were the thoughts which flashed through our heads as we watched the slow-moving film.

People are dying all over the globe. Some get mentioned, most do not.

Should we think about changing the names of our birds? It's a front-page report in the Times!


  1. As the world burns, Somerby takes in a matinee.

    1. Somerby's blog comments on the media. It's not a current events blog.

    2. Speaking of current events, a few "highlights" from Trump's rally over the weekend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFJgkH8wc-g

    3. He comments on the media? Well, sometimes. But when he says “we look away from Gotham's lower-income public school kids. We look away from the (almost wholly) disregarded people in Gaza”, is he talking about the “media?” It’s odd to refer to the “media” as “we.”


  2. "That was largely what we drew away as we watched the slow-moving film with the largely illegible subtitles."

    Was it interesting to watch? Or was it crap? "Slow-moving" sounds like it's probably boring.

  3. This film reinforces an impression I got when doing a tour of Europe: They're very concerned and sympathetic to dead Jews. E.g., in Bratislava we spent a lot time visiting a synagogue and the preserved home of a Jewish family.
    However no live Jews reside in Bratislava today. Other tours harked back to the Holocaust. However, Europe today continues to donate money to Palestinians in Gaza, although they know that money actually goes to Hamas, who uses the money to murder Jews.

    Hollywood also seems very sympathetic to dead Jews. It's nice that Hollywood disapproves of the Holocaust. I wish they would also disapprove of Hamas's current stated goal of eradicating all the Jews in Israel and in the rest of the world. It would also be nice if Hollywood looked at Iran's support of terrorist organizations whose goal is to murder Jews.

    1. The Holocaust is not about the Jews, David. It's about the Nazis, and similar ideologies. Any group (or several groups, like in the Holocaust) can be singled out for extermination. Many people feel that currently it's Palestinians in Gaza.

    2. Yes, @:1:21 many people do feel that way, but they're entirely misled. If Israel wanted to exterminated the Palestinians in Gaza they could accomplish that genocide this afternoon.

      Contrary to what many people believe, Israel has been incredibly careful to protect Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has killed the lowest ratio ever of civilians in their war against Hamas -- a war that Hamas started with their rampage of murder kidnapping, torture and rape of innocent civilians.


    3. "If Israel wanted to exterminated the Palestinians in Gaza they could accomplish that genocide this afternoon."

      Technically, they could. But no, considering the likely consequences, they couldn't. And if they could, they would, there's little doubt, considering the usual rhetoric of their political and religious leaders.

    4. @3:01 - Baloney. No Israeli political leader has advocated exterminating the Palestinians. I challenge you to find a cite.

    5. Took me a whole 10 seconds.
      "TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Fighting “human animals.” Making Gaza a “slaughterhouse.” “Erasing the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth.”

      Such inflammatory rhetoric is a key component of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide at the U.N. world court, a charge that Israel denies. South Africa says the language — in comments by Israeli leaders, soldiers and entertainers about Palestinians in Gaza since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack sparked war — is proof of Israel’s intent to commit genocide.


    6. I wish they would also disapprove of Hamas's current stated goal of eradicating all the Jews in Israel and in the rest of the world.
      Really? Is that their stated goals?
      In any case, you conflate Israel and Jews. Whenever people do that in their comments to various articles, I point out that it's anti-Semitic. True, Israel is a theocracy based on Judaism. It is also true that Israel doesn't give a shit about Jews who are not Israelis. In Benny Moris' "Righteous Victims", he quotes one of Israel's founding fathers, Moshe Dayan, I think, as saying: "If I could save 100,000 Jewish children from the holocaust and not have the state of Israel, I would choose Israel". Jews who are not Israelis are only of interest insofar as they can help Israel.
      Self-serving assholes like Netanyahu like to bring up the holocaust to frame what Israel is doing as a fight for survival of Jews. This is, of course, a lie.
      No, Israel does not have a stated goal and policy of genocide of Gazans. They also don't seem to mind mass civilian casualties and starvation. Make what you will of this.

    7. @3:43 No, this is not what you're looking for. This is an allegation of comments made by unknown people without any context. They're not even sentences, just brief phrases.

      By contrast the original Hamas Charter explicitly calls for killing Jews all over the world. It's filled with antisemitic tropes

      “With their money, they took control of the world media,” reads Article 22, “news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others.”

      The 9000-word document blames Jews for the French and Communist revolutions, World War I and II, and for the Rotary Club and the United Nations, “to enable them to rule the world through them.”

      “There is no war going on anywhere,” it reads, “without having their finger in it.”

      The charter directs the killing of Jews, drawing on a hadith (prophetic saying): “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’”

      Hamas did revise the charter in 2017 and softened it somewhat. The revised charter codifies Hamas’s commitment to violence, which it calls “armed resistance.” And, of course, their barbaric attack on October 7 shows that they support attacking, murdering, torturing, raping and kidnapping innocent civilians.

    8. Ilya, the antisemites conflate Jews and Israel. In my comment above note that the original Hamas charter explicitly calls for killing Jews, not just Israelis. Antisemitism is tolerated on many colleges and universities right now. See Harvard, dozen other college campuses hit with failing grade on ADL Antisemitism Report Card

      Israel has the lowest ratio of civilian deaths in any urban conflict. They deserve to be praised for their efforts to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

    9. It takes too much time to develop, shoot and promote a film for this one to have been about the Gaza War on purpose. It might be productive to ask what the filmmakers thought their film was about.

    10. Israel declares itself the state of the Jewish people.

    11. BTW where is the condemnation of Hamas for their war crimes against Palestinian civilians? When Hamas built military installations in civilian areas that was a war crime by Hamas. When Hamas fighters chose to set up base in a Palestinian hospital, that was Hamas showing it's contempt for Palestinian lives

    12. I condemn Hamas.

    13. Yitzhak Kroizer, a member of the Knesset representing the Jewish National Front party, in which he called for Gaza to be "flattened" and said that for all residents "there is but one sentence, and that is death."

    14. Thanks @8:51. That's just one member of the legislature and it's just talk. If he said this right after Oct 7, overheated rhetoric would bed understandable.

    15. David, you challenged the commenter to find a cite, then scoffed at it “meh, it would be understandable.”

    16. "BTW where is the condemnation of Hamas"

      Perhaps the first thing to do is to transition what many regard as "Zionist colonial entity" into a modern state of Palestine. Let the indigenous people return and get their property back. Wait a decade or so, till things settle down. And then, perhaps, there will be nothing left to condemn. With any luck, radical Islamism and anti-Americanism everywhere will lose its appeal and popularity.

    17. Letting the indigenous people return is just not feasible. They'll have to thrive where they are. That means all economic measures taken against them have to stop. They need control over their own resources, especially water. They have to be able to travel to all neighboring countries. They need to manage their seacoast. Palestinians living in other countries should be integrated into those societies.

    18. Bummer that there isn't a "Kill Whitey" quote from Ilhan Omar for David to dismiss.

    19. NBC: Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter told Israeli Channel 12 over the weekend that the war would be “Gaza’s Nakba,” using the Arabic word for “catastrophe” that many use to describe the 1948 displacement of roughly 700,000 Palestinians who were expelled from their land in what became Israel.

      Israeli Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu sparked outcry after he suggested that dropping a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip was “one of the possibilities” in the current conflict.

      Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a prominent settler activist, raised alarm himself earlier this month after calling for the creation of "sterile" zones in the West Bank in a letter he sent to Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant that was shared with Israeli media. Such zones, he said, would block Palestinians from entering certain areas and bar them from harvesting olives close to Israeli settlements in the enclave.

      The letter came during the annual olive harvest, with olive farming a primary source of income for many Palestinian farmers in the West Bank. They also came during a surge in settler violence against Palestinians in the area that has drawn growing expressions of concern from the United States and the U.N.

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  5. "Even here among us Blues, we tend to avert our gaze from the disregarded."
    LOL! As opposed to whom?

  6. Bob weighs in on the movies quite a bit these days,
    it's one of his go to "ignore Trump" standards.
    For me, I think it's a little tragic how everyone has gotten
    surprisingly comfortable with Holocaust Denial, reducing
    it all to antisemitism, and neither side mentions that Trump
    welcomed a man who declares he's a "proud non book"
    reader, and that he likes Nazis, and the Holocaust never
    happened, as an honored guest at the White House.
    Never seemed to bother Bob.
    But, Bob Somerby can put it all in his bullshit blender,
    and the message comes out the same: Liberals are

    1. Liberal Justin Trudeau invited an actual Nazi into Canadian Parliment for a Standing O.

    2. Ie. Liberals ARE bad. ;)

    3. What is so bad about saying liverals are bad? Can someone say liberal leadership is bad? Is that off limits to? Who makes up these fucking rules that guide your idiotic logic?

  7. Somerby has turned his back on the black school kids of Baltimore but that doesn't mean liberals in general have done so. Periodically, Somerby calls us liberals hypocrites when it comes to helping others. He is wrong about that, but nothing anyone writes here in comments ever changes a word he says on any topic, because he will not read his comments. How is that for building a wall to ignore the world's problems!

    1. Bob should change his name to Dick.

    2. Pretty dumb thing to say.

    3. There’s plenty that Somerby has averted his gaze from during the Trump years.