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KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs at 7:20 a.m., during the Noon News and in The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington and Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review | 'The Zone of Interest'

“The Zone of Interest” is one of those Oscar contenders that’s not as well known as “Barbie” or “Oppenheimer.” But the dark drama has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Many films and TV programs have looked at the Holocaust unflinchingly, with open eyes.

Others derive their power from the fact they approach the topic from an angle.

In “The Zone of Interest," the horror is just out of frame, in the background. The characters in the film are aware of it—in fact, they’re comfortable with it.

The film is based on a novel by Martin Amis, but features a real historical figure. Commandant Rudolf Höss lives in a comfortable country estate with his wife, five children and cute dog, where life consists of horse riding, picnics by the river and pool parties.

But in the background is smoke, an occasional crackling noise that sounds like fireworks, and the gray buildings of—some kind of industrial plant. It is, in fact, a death camp—specifically Auschwitz where Höss was the commandant, and worked to create the Final Solution.

For the commandant’s wife, Hedwig, it’s the dream home she’s always wanted. The biggest domestic crisis of the film occurs when he’s promoted, which means he has to work in another city, but Mrs. Höss refuses to move away from the comforts of her servants and her garden.

Director and writer Jonathan Glazer is known for commercials (and a bizarre crime drama I fondly remember from the early 2000’s, “Sexy Beast.”) He’s set a low-key almost documentary style for his actors, including Christian Friedel as the commandant and Sandra Hüller as his wife.

In the film, it often appears nothing is happening, but everything is happening in the small incidents. The commandant makes an odd discovery in the river; Hedwig tries on a fur coat, which nobody paid for; and she idly threatens a servant over some perceived insolence.

Spoiler Alert: We don’t learn Commandant Höss’s ultimate fate—you’ll have to check Wikepedia for that.

But at film’s end, the moral weight of history is felt, in a strange moment with the commandant; and a time-jump to the present day.

“The Zone of Interest” is a grim but powerful film, and rates 4.5 stars out of five.