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The Familiarity of Old Evils: The Zone of Interest Movie Review

The Familiarity of Old Evils: The Zone of Interest Movie Review


Last Thursday the New York Times published a very strange review of the new Holocaust movie, The Zone of Interest. The review was written by Manohla Dargis, who is one of the finest film critics in the country. But something was off about this piece.

Ms. Dargis is withering right out of the gate calling the movie hollow, a self-aggrandizing art-film, and pointless. I thought to myself, ‘What’s going on here!? New York Times movie reviewers generally have high praise for Holocaust films!’ And the words “hollow” and “pointless” are very different from calling something a “self-aggrandizing art film” (the first two terms are about emptiness, the last is about being overwrought). My Spidey-sense started tingling — Ms. Dargis is triggered! But why?

The more I read the more curious I got. The film is set in the residential neighborhood on the other side of the wall from the Auschwitz Concentration and Extermination Camp during the years 1942 and 1943 — at the height of the industrialized mass murder carried out by the Nazis. But the film never directly shows what is happening inside the death camp. Instead, the film is about how the family of the camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, ignores the genocide that is happening all around them. It sounded like a fascinating premise, yet the review is just a long string of insults that ends with her calling the movie “vacuous.”

I wondered — was Ms. Dargis triggered because the movie is a perfect description of our current reality — an entire society dedicated to denying the genocide that is all around us?

So, I dropped my plans for the day and jumped in the car to see a matinee of The Zone of Interest at one of the two theaters in Los Angeles that is showing the film. It was the first time I had seen a film in a theater in four years. Here’s the trailer:

YouTube video

It turns out that the film is an absolute masterpiece — perhaps the most impactful Holocaust film I’ve ever seen. The film opens with a pastoral scene of a family enjoying a summer day along a river surrounded by lush green forests. But we soon discover that the National Socialists have turned this Eden into hell on earth.

The Zone of Interest is best understood as a horror film, however it never shows the violence directly. As the director explains in an interview it’s really two films — the visuals of the family going about their daily activities and the background audio that was created after the filming was completed.

The sound designer went to Auschwitz to record the natural sounds of the region and then interviewed survivors to identify all of the sounds that would have come from the machinery of death at the camp. So while you are watching the family on screen you are hearing the sounds of the death camp all around you. The sounds become omnipresent, oppressive, and terrifying but the family does everything they can to deny, normalize, and accept the genocide happening on the other side of the wall.

Many Holocaust films turn the Nazis into monsters — a cartoonish “other.” While indeed there were some monsters, Hannah Arendt teaches us that the genocide was run by the bureaucrats. Seeing the banality of evil depicted in this film — the camp commandant making sure his kids are ready for school and kissing his wife before going off to work — is far more scary because it points to the darkness that resides in the hearts of all people (even though it is not always expressed).

This is a theme I keep coming back to. As I’ve written before, I think it is a mistake to see the Nazis as singular in their atrocities. Yes, they had a particular zeal for their industrialized murderousness. But under the right conditions, lots of people are willing to participate in great evil.

Every day for the last four years New York has been the center of the American iatrogenocide:

New York City is the headquarters for Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance — the fake nonprofit that Tony Fauci used to send money to Wuhan to develop SARS-CoV-2 in violation of the US ban on gain-of-function research.

Upon hearing of Covid, the New York State Department of Health gave itself permission to set up quarantine camps to detain anyone for any reason without due process of law. Think about that — the first instinct of the public health authorities in the state with the largest Jewish population was, “How can we set up the legal framework for quarantine camps?”

New York hospitals implemented the murderous protocols of immediately ventilating patients, thus killing 80% to 90% of the people in their care rather than treating them with ivermectin or two dozen other off-the-shelf medicines that work.

New York implemented Vaccine Jim Crow that blocked the unvaccinated, including 75% of the city’s Black population, from eating indoors at restaurants.

And New York embraced the deadly Covid shots at a higher rate than the rest of the country and now they are dealing with the consequences — an increase in all-cause mortality and a rise in chronic health conditions.

So I think my hunch was correct — a movie about an entire society that ignored the genocide all around them hit a bit too close to home for Manohla Dargis and her bosses at the New York Times who have spent the last four years ignoring the genocide all around them. But for anyone trying to understand the murderous actions of the Covidians and their unwillingness to take responsibility for their crimes, this film is illuminating.

The Zone of Interest is currently playing in limited release in the U.. It will be released on February 2, 2024 in the UK and February 9 in Poland. I imagine it will arrive on streaming services in the US shortly after that. If you see it, I’m interested to hear your reactions. Please be forewarned though: the film will mess you up because it shows the worst side of humanity and reminds us that it is happening all over again.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • Toby Rogers

    Toby Rogers has a Ph.D. in political economy from the University of Sydney in Australia and a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of California, Berkeley. His research focus is on regulatory capture and corruption in the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Rogers does grassroots political organizing with medical freedom groups across the country working to stop the epidemic of chronic illness in children. He writes about the political economy of public health on Substack.

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