With Jonathan Glazer’s previous films “Under the Skin” and “Birth,” the man was playing checkers. Now he’s playing chess with “The Zone of Interest.”
For 105 minutes, the auteur filmmaker who’s helmed just three feature films, including the 2000 crime thriller “Sexy Beast” with Oscar nominee Ben Kingsley, puts the audience through the wringer with his bleak Nazi drama told from the perpetrator’s perspective. The result is the first major Oscar player to emerge from the Cannes Film Festival, and a serious contender for the coveted Palme d’Or.
“Interest” is not for the faint of hearts. It’s a grueling endeavor that doesn’t use imagery to depict the horrors that resulted in the murdering of six million Jews. Instead, the soundscape provided by his frequent collaborator Johnnie Burn, the sound designer who’s snubbed work includes “The Favourite” and “Waves,” lays down his most audacious work yet.
In addition, nonbinary musician Mica Levi turns in their career best work with darkly timed chords that pulsate through the frame, and would be an inventive choice for the music branch. They are a former nominee for the biopic “Jackie.”
The two performances from Sandra Hüller and Christian Friedel, who play husband and wife Rudolf and Hedwig, are exceptional with their portrayals of some of history’s most vile humans. I found Huller’s execution the most striking, and having been a fan of hers since “Toni Erdmann,” I’m hopeful for her acting recognition prospects.
Nonetheless, the A24-distributed film is the type that will appeal to the international voting bloc of the Academy, as well as members who are unafraid of immersing themselves in tougher subject matter.
Admittedly, as someone who is not from the Jewish community, I don’t know how someone would handle such a deeply personal subject that still has living survivors among us. Glazer, who is Jewish, is methodical and precise in what he chooses to show, and even when to provide a viewer a beat to breathe. This will put him in the running for both directing and adapted screenplay. As a scribe, his themes of not forgetting some of our worst acts against one another come in loud and clear.
You can also pencil in cinematographer Lukasz Zal and editor Paul Watts on the list of worthy awards possibilities.
After A24 made Oscars history with the sci-fi comedy “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” it’s remarkable to see such an about-face that allows such a visionary filmmaker to make such a powerful swing.
Oscar voters should take a heavy interest.