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‘The Zone of Interest’s’ Immersive Horror

February 13, 2024
Notes
Transcript
On this week’s episode, Sonny Bunch (The Bulwark), Alyssa Rosenberg (The Washington Post), and Peter Suderman (Reason) talked Super Bowl trailers (which you can watch here). Then they turned to The Zone of Interest, the last of the best picture nominees they have to review. (If you want to hear their take on every best picture nominee, here’s the lineup in the order we reviewed them, from most recently to least recently: Anatomy of a Fall, The Holdovers, American Fiction,Maestro, Poor Things, Killers of the Flower Moon, Barbie, Oppenheimer, and Past Lives.) Make sure to swing by Bulwark+ for our discussion of the state of film criticism. And if you enjoyed this episode, share it with a friend!
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:11

    Welcome back to this Tuesday’s across the movie aisle presented by Bulwark Plus. I’m your host Sunny Bunch, culture editor of the Bulwark, and I’m joined As always, by the award winning, Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post and Peter Sutterman of Reason Magazine, Alyssa Peter. How are you today?
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:24

    I am alright.
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:26

    I am happy to be talking about movies with friends.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:28

    First, not being controversies and controversy Super Bowl trailers. Let’s be honest, half the reason to watch the Super Bowl at this point is the ads and half reason to watch the ads is for the trailer premieres. We all love trailers. Ever since Independence Day blew up the White House in the midst of then high discontent with Washington’s performance and No idea what that’s like. And Morpheus told us, no one could be told what the matrix is.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:50

    We we gotta experience it for ourselves. We’ve all kept an eye on the big games, big movie, reveals. One trend that is is growing more prevalent that I’ve really grown to dislike showing like fifteen seconds of a film and then say go watch the full trailer on YouTube. I’d just spend the money on the ad spot. That’s why you’re just I don’t wanna have to go to YouTube.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:12

    I’d I wanna watch deadpool three or Deadpool verse wolverine or whatever they’re whatever they’re calling this movie. I just wanna watch the ad on the TV where I’m watching everything else. All I want. Just give me that. Another trend I have grown to dislike the constant effort to hide the fact that films are part ones.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:31

    This happened recently with Dune, right, a movie that was going to be split into two parts, and you knew it was gonna be split into two parts if you read the trades or you read the nerd gossip sites, or you were kind of aware of it on Twitter, but you would not have had any idea if you had just watched the trailers, or watched the TV ads, looked at the posters and the billboards, I remember being this is a true story. I remember being in the movie theater when part one started playing. And so, like, you know, it’s the title. It’s like, Dune, the movie title card. And then appearing underneath at part one.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:02

    And when that happened, a guy that was, like, just behind me, like, just to my right, he was, like, I heard him literally out loud say, wait, what? No idea. He was not happy. Wicked did just that in its trailer, which is also very kind of downplaying, strenuously downplaying that it’s a musical, though I I can’t I don’t know how you can really downplay it that much. It’s like the biggest Broadway hit in, I don’t know, ten, fifteen years.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:24

    The biggest trend of the year is the continuation of intellectual property grants look, some of these would be fun. Right? I like the trailer for twisters because it looked like big, dumb, goofy fun, like the original twister. I like the trailer for despicable me four. Because my kids love love the minions.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:41

    Love
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:41

    the minions.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:42

    They love the minions. And, they’re they’re excited to watch the minions do minion things and I’m excited to sit in a movie theater for ninety minutes and watch them be excited. My children were not enthused for a quiet place day one looks way too scary for them. They were like, oh my god. Well, we’re not gonna go see that movie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:58

    I’m like, no, you’re not gonna go see that movie. And some of them some of these IP grabs might even be great. Right? The kingdom of the planet of the apes trailer really good. Like that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:07

    I like those movies. I’ll probably like this one. But it they do kind of all give off this whiff of worn outness that we’re all dealing with at the multiplex. Alyssa, there were some original films that got some trailer play on this. Which of the three are you most looking forward to?
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:24

    Monkey ma’am, that’s the Jordan Peel produced action John Wick in Mumbai, film starring Dev Patel. The fall guy, which is the new David leech, directed movie about the stuntman who has to, do stunts to save the day. And then if the John Krasinski family kids film that looks amazing. I can’t wait to see it. Alyssa, which of those three original movies are you most looking forward to?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:51

    I am sufficiently excited for my man, that I told my husband that that’s what we would be doing on his fortieth birthday because that’s when it was released. Come on. Deb tell. And after I love doing his, like, John Wick in Mumbai, a passion project with Jordan Peal, are you kidding me? Of course, I’m incredibly excited for that movie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:09

    I mean, Yes. Is John Wicks’ sort of IP at this point and that every everyone wants to make a, like, I suddenly murder a lot of people very stylishly movie. Yes. On the other hand, like, Deb Patel doing it. I am so sold baby.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:24

    I am there. Matt I love you. I will not actually make your fortieth birthday all about monkey man, but I’m very excited for it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:32

    I think you should definitely have a monkey man party. For your husband. I feel like monkey man monkey man fortieth birth. The monkey man trailer does look pretty good. There’s an interesting backstory there, Peter.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:43

    Are you are you aware of the backstory on this movie? Should I can I fill you in?
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:47

    This movie was, scheduled for streaming, and then Jordan Peels saw it and was like, no. This deserves a much bigger release. I wanna bring it under my banner, and now it is getting a theatrical release in April, which great because movie theaters need product. They especially need product that looks, pretty good to look this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:04

    Yeah. Are you excited for if the John Krasinski imaginary friends movie? So the the con up here is we all have imaginary friends when we’re kids, and when we grow up and we forget about them, but one little girl with the power of her moxie and cuteness gonna get everybody to remember their imaginary friends and bring them all back to life.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:25

    It will not be as good as harpy. That’s all that matters.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:28

    So first of all, what Alyssa said. Second of all, I believe at some point in this podcast’s history, I pitch a, like, a franchise of gun stuffed bears as like the, as like an extended movie universe. And I’m very sad that if is not that because I had a bunch of gun stuffed bears who were my imaginary friends as a kid. Actually, several of them are still here in my home office sitting on the my comic bookshelf because I’m that big a nerd. Should they start a podcast
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:00

    with my good stuff bear. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:02

    It still
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:02

    lives in my mouth.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:03

    Let’s let’s do that. We can do the voices for them. Are we gonna have to see if for this podcast? Because kid movies or something, because kid movies would be the only things that open some weekends this year.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:14

    Well, I mean, I I feel like that’s, you know, that’s a real law tourist project from John Krasinski, you know, we’re gonna get some some camera swoops and whatnot.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:23

    Is it gonna be aliens?
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:25

    I don’t think so. No. The aliens are a quiet place
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:27

    I know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:28

    Day one, which is interesting because we already saw what happened on a day one in a quiet place in the cooled. I don’t But
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:34

    not in a big city. Yeah. And also and also not a third time. Right? Like
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:40

    Not not with Luke and Nango?
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:43

    Yeah. This is totally correct. Right? Like, you could do you could do a hundred acquired Place movies. They’re just like story from a different family in a different city each time.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:53

    And you should put out you could put out three of these a year. Like, here’s what here’s the one in Washington DC. Right? Here’s the one in San Diego.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:00

    What happens when a retired assassin, like, is experiences day one of a quiet place? What happens when, like, a group of bros on their way to a bachelor party experience a quiet place, like, all Exactly.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:12

    We can we can in in the same way that Isaac Gasimov once postulated that science fiction wasn’t a a genre unto itself, but in fact, it could support any other genre. And then descent when I went and wrote a a bunch of, robot mystery novels in the spirit of Agatha Christie, which are actually some of the best non Agatha Christie Agatha Christie novels. Like, the the quiet place universe should be able to support all genres and all types of We I wanna see every movie remade as a quiet place.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:46

    So
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:46

    I didn’t realize I was gonna say that when we started this pod ten minutes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:49

    Well, I mean, Well, it it would be like the prey franchise, which they or the predator franchise, which they they was prey, right, which is like what if a predator against some comanches? And then we’ve got the we there’s another one coming called predator Badlands, which is what if predator versus like slightly in the future, broken down society or something? I don’t know. It’s it’s not not a hundred percent.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:13

    I’m excited. I like to pray. So that the thing that actually jumped out at me from this set of trailers besides the fact that I wanna see a quiet place everything was was twisters. Twisters is in some ways the most interesting and the least interesting product here. And the least interesting is because what is the difference here between this and twister and the most interesting because it’s like, oh, here is a a really big budget you know, a kind of an effects driven, you know, kind of up and coming star driven blockbuster that isn’t a superhero film, isn’t conventional, you know, a franchise film isn’t isn’t a family film, either.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:51

    Right? It’s the sort of thing that we used to see much more of and and that studios haven’t entirely stopped making, but it it feels a little bit, old school and a little bit of a throwback, but as part of feeling old school and throwbacky, I was thinking back to the original twister. If you guys remember when this movie came out, it was really billed as a big, like a showcase for early CG effects. And there were there were there were a bunch of practical effects in this too, but the big tornado sequences were CG heavy back when that was still unusual in and this was the mid nineteen nineties. And the movie looked great.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:29

    I mean, it not the greatest movie in the world, but, like, it it really works as great popcorn cinema. Phillips Seymour Hoffman is in it, steals every scene. Bill Packston’s just great Helen Hunt is like really kind of charmingly difficult in the movie in in a way that is just perfect, but it it that movie in the nineteen nineties looks really good and what’s amazing to me watching this trailer for twisters, which is almost thirty years later, it doesn’t look any better. The the effects look not terrible. They just don’t look they don’t look thirty years and like revolution upon revolution of computer effects work like We are generations past the effects that that produced the original twister and the original twister looks basically just as good as twisters.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:16

    Yeah. I we’ll see we’ll see how it actually looks on the big screen. It’s always kinda hard to tell with us. But I do I it is funny that, you know, the Twister almost feels like an original, in comparison to all the rest of these, even though it looks like the exact same movie as twister. I mean, literally, almost the exact same movie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:36

    Right? Like, you got competing.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:38

    Even got like the little, the little tiny things in the the little sensors that they send up. Right? It’s they’re they look exactly the same. I think these characters are playing, like, the kids or one of them is the kid of the Helen Hunt Bill Packson character from the original. I’m not quite sure.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:57

    Yeah. I don’t know. Yeah. It’s I’m
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:59

    What about wicked? You know what? So, Alyssa, do you have wicked thoughts? Because I, I have I’ve never seen this.
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:05

    Alyssa has very wicked thoughts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:07

    I have a I have I have no I have no wicked thoughts. I am a I’m a good boy. But the, but what what is what is interesting about that trailer is, again, like I said, they’re they’re downplaying the fact that it’s part one, which I think is smart. I think because audiences have do not like the whole part one thing. And, and they are kind of downplaying that it’s a musical, though not entirely.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:30

    There was some there’s some singing, there’s some music.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:32

    Well, and Define gravity has become, you know, one of these just sort of music standards that is, you know, very, very familiar at this point. I wanna ask an even sort of question that’s even a step back from, like, why are they hiding it that it’s part one? Why does wicked need to be a two part movie? I mean, other than to make money for the studio, you know, this is something that functioned perfectly well as a, you know, a Broadway musical that you could see in a single setting. And so, it’s not even just, you know, hiding the ball, but the idea that this thing is gonna have been floated to two movies just feels real weird and unappealing to me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:14

    I am not a wicked head. I actually read the book before it was adopted as a call many, many, many years ago and don’t really remember it, so don’t have strong wicked feelings. It looks I mean, like, it looks okay. It looks fun. I like Ariana Grande.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:28

    I don’t know if she can act. This is not one that I’m gonna, like, force you guys to see, though. I will, like, maybe I will see wicked at some point, but I definitely will not, force March you guys to the theater for this one.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:39

    I well, I gotta be honest. There’s a decent chance there won’t be anything playing. Yeah. And so we may we may end up having to see it, regardless. So, you know, fingers fingers crossed for that one.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:51

    So my my plan to avoid wicked is that we need to go back to our schedule and have a a whole month of June two episodes just do dune two months rather than be like dune two and then some other movie. We four four episodes, and that will cover That will keep us going for a while, and then we can have, like, twist We could
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:13

    do the David Lynch, we could go back and revisit. Did I actually do our Dune episode? Because I had my kid. I don’t think I taped our Dune episode, so maybe we should do an entire month of Dune.
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:25

    Didn’t I I believe that Chris Orr was there for the well, actually, I don’t know. Because I I’m pretty sure it was the last movie you saw before you went on leave.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:34

    Yeah. Before I had my baby. So we’ll have to see.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:37

    Yeah. I was a little surprised there wasn’t a dune trailer. Just a reminder, hey, dune dune’s coming dune too. Coming soon. The big real shift in sea change is that there was one comic book movie trailer.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:50

    And it was it wasn’t even the full trailer. Like I mentioned, it was, you know, is deadpool versus wolverine coming yeah. I I I I watched that trailer and I was like, I really feel like the the air is running out of the tires on these things.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:05

    I Nope. They’re gonna revive it by making it meta.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:08

    But it’s I mean, I I the Deadpool movies are immensely successful, and, you know, good good for them. And I like them just fine.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:19

    You didn’t knowingly chuckle when when Ryan Reynolds said he was gonna be marvel Jesus.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:25

    He’s marvel. He’s Marvel Jesus.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:28

    Right? When they when they’re like, we’re like, hey, we know that you guys think that our franchise has some problems, but Marvel Jesus is coming. That
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:37

    I don’t know, guys.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:38

    Win your heart.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:39

    I don’t know, guys. What do you what do you think? Excited. Excited for Deadpool three.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:45

    No.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:45

    Yeah. There we go. That’s what I like to do. That’s the excitement in everybody’s voice. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:51

    Alright. So, you’re you’re I I want you to put yourself in the mind of the consumer. Put yourself in the mind of the customer. It’s a hard thing to do because we’re so you know, we’re such, we see everything. So it’s it’s a but if you are sitting there, you are the you’re the customer, you gotta pick one of these movies you’re gonna watch.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:12

    Alyssa, which one of these trailers was the one that got you so excited? You’re like, I gotta go see this movie. I gotta I gotta go see it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:18

    I mean, I’ve already said, do I have to pick a franchise one, or can I just You can pick out anyone? Monkey man, obviously.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:23

    Monkey man. Okay. Good. Peter, you’re just you’re you’re the guy who goes to the movie theaters twice a year. You’re you’re totally reliant on advertising to get you there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:34

    What movie did you see that you’re like, I gotta go see this?
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:37

    You’re asking me to inhabit the mind of a person that I literally cannot possibly understand. No. I I I think the somebody who goes to the movies twice a year, what? No. I I think, I think the movie that is going to over perform expectations is in fact twisters.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:53

    I think it will be a throwback with, modern star power in exactly the right way, and I think it is going to timed well in a year where not where films that are not, part of tired franchises Yes. It’s a franchise film, but it’s not really connected to something that we’ve been watching for the last ten years. And I I think it will I think that is the movie gonna over perform out of this group.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:18

    The movie I am most interested to see the performance of, and the the one frank thing that I’m most interested to see if it were period is the fall guy, which is the, the David leach directed, original starring Ryan Gosling as a as a stunt guy who is being directed by Emily Blunt who is making this action movie. They’ve gotta find the star of the movie who’s been killed or so. It’s it’s I I’m I wouldn’t say I’m excited for this movie, but I’m interested to see it because it is look, it’s an original film. It is being sold heavily on star power. And it’s the sort of thing that we always say we wanna see more of.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:52

    So I would be I would be happy for this to do well if it’s good. I don’t know if it’s gonna be any good. Could be could be bad. We’ll see. We’ll see.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:01

    But that’s what that’s what you go to the movies for. Sometimes they’re good, and sometimes they’re bad folks. They’re not all gonna be argyles, but they’re not all gonna be Oppenheimer’s either. So Alright. Make sure to swing Bulwark Plus for our bonus episode on Friday, in which we are going to be discussing the state of film criticism.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:17

    Where you get genius lines, like, they’re not all gonna be argyles, but they’re not all gonna be Oppenheimer’s either. Is it too consensus oriented? This film criticism racket should all critics the part of three person teams offering a range of ideological and artistic opinions to their audiences. Who can say? I don’t know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:35

    I I I can’t I can’t make that call for you. But we got a lot of thoughts on this, maybe. Maybe we don’t have many. I don’t know. We’ll see.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:42

    And now on to the main event. The zone of interest from director Jonathan Last comes this Holocaust film that never really shows you The Holocaust indeed the whole film as a masterpiece of not showing of withholding information from the viewer and letting them feel their way through what it’s like to live next to unspeakable horror. And to profit from unmentionable wickedness. The film is largely set on the outskirts of Auschwitz, where Rudolph Hess lives with his family. His wife, Headwick, does the family shopping, and keeps the maids in order, the children, run around the garden she has built, and down to the river for fishing and swimming.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:16

    And Rudolph deals with bureaucratic headaches as any manager does. Grandma comes over to stay and help out with the home. It’s just a nice little family scene. Of course, the family scene here involves, you know, going through the goods brought to Auschwitz by Jews scheduled for execution and deciding which furs they want to keep or which toots of toothpaste might have diamonds hidden inside. The children’s garden with its pool and waterslide sit in front of a barbed wire fence.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:43

    Where the workhouses in the crematoria sit behind it. The river that they go to occasionally washes up human remains. The the bureaucratic headache, the root office dealing with we learn, you know, just a just a normal workplace headache as try to figure out how to make the crematoria, run twenty four hours a day. Grandma’s visit. Begins with her casually mentioning that the woman whose house she used to clean Bay had been sent to this camp.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:04

    She ends it chugging vodka, horrified at the ever burning, blood red smoke stack, in the middle distance. A few folks have described the zone of interest as, like, a depiction of the banality of evil, but I don’t think that’s right precisely. It’s it’s about active evil. It’s about people acting evil. Like, I’m sorry there’s nothing, banal about determining the most efficient method of burning corpses, and there’s nothing but all about Hadwig’s threats to the maid that her husband could scatter her ashes on the fields.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:33

    The closest we get to that sort of banality is the grandmother who realizes what is happening and flees, she can’t take it, but the movie’s not really about her. Again, what’s what’s masterful about the zone of interest is what it doesn’t show. We hear gunshots in the distance but we never see who gets shocked. We see trains gliding by on the horizon, their smokestacks steaming, but we never see the selections. At the train stops of who gets to live and work and who gets to die.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:58

    Early on, the help washes Rudolph’s boots and bloody mud splashes off of them, but we never see who’s it is or how it got there. We get a discussion of the crematoria without seeing burial pits. All in all, it creates as, the sense the sense of living life in the midst of horror without actually acknowledging it. So that’s what’s masterful about it, and it it is a masterpiece of a sword. It’s also look, I I feel weird saying this, but it’s a little bit gimmicky because the horror of what we’re seeing only really lands if you have a working knowledge of the Holocaust and its many terrors.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:28

    As I wrote in my review of the film, It’s almost like it is scattered with Easter eggs of the sort that you would get in a Marvel movie. Right? Like that reference to Siemens or the bit about hiding diamonds in the toothpaste, there’s the use of the song sunbeams, which was actually written in Auschwitz. Right? This is all the sort of thing that you’re, like, if you’re supposed to watch it, then maybe you’d nudge your neighbor and you go, Hey, did you did you that?
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:48

    Did you understand what was did you do did you get this little bit of background information? And adding to that perversity is the way some of these things are played almost for laughs. Like as when Rudolph is in the river, and the the piece of, skull, the fragment of skull, or whatever it is, bumps up against his leg and he, like, them up and he rushes them to the bath and they’re all crying and yelling about not wanting to be scrubbed and they’re scrubbing or or the dark joke near the end where he, recounts an evening cocktail party to his wife and says that all he could think about was how high the ceilings were and how much gas it would take to kill everyone in the room. The thing is told With the cadence of a joke, it’s like set up unexpected punch line, it’s I look, it again, this is this is just what the movie’s doing. Richard Brodie dismissed the zone of interest, the the the credit for the New Yorker.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:36

    He dismissed it as a Holocaust Kitch basically suggesting it’s too clever for his its own good. And I I think he goes too far, but I did find it to be both successful and very distancing. Like, I appreciated what Glaser was doing, but was never really moved or horrified by it because it all seems so calculated and at a remove. Peter, you you told us over text message that if it hadn’t been for the show, you would have walked out of the theater because it was too intense. What about it?
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:03

    Sparked that reaction in you. I’m, like, I’m honestly kind of curious because I I watched this and, like, kind of admired it, but also was just like, okay.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:12

    Yeah. So to be clear, the reason I said that is not because I found the movie bad or inappropriate, or anything like that, but it the intensity of it and the the the focus of it. It is, it is a it is a masterpiece of negative space in filmmaking, because what it does is it forces you to think about what’s not there or what’s only barely there or what’s hinted at. And, as somebody who has, I don’t know, intense thoughts sometimes, Sort of the movie asks you to dwell Jonathan Last it’s sort of it is constantly nudging you to think about the thing that it’s not showing you. And and as as many filmmakers who are just working in sort of more conventional genres, know that asking the the audience to imagine something that is terrible is often can be, you know, more, more effective and more chilling than showing it to them.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:08

    This movie puts that idea to great effect, you know, to powerful effect, I think, but about a, you know, a horror that is hard to capture. That is hard to describe. That you can you can put it in in words and sentences and numbers, but that is that if you just put it on screen, you know, you we’ve you can watch Schindler’s list and you can you can show it that way. But there is A lot of people actually literally heard people as I walked out of the theater talking about the the banality of evil, but the quote that came to mind for me was, Theodore Adorno’s quote about the impossibility of writing poetry after Auschwitz. And this is a movie that seems to be kind of grappling with that idea.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:50

    And the the way that you can’t. You can’t use representational or even even the kinds of art that are that are meant to be a little bit beyond representational to to kind of truly capture it. And so what it does is it captures it at the fringes and at the margins. Is sort of red. It’s it’s the thing that’s just outside of your eye.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:11

    There’s so much masterful, because she’s kind of craft work in this movie that that works to this effect, you will often see these shots, in the yard, for example, where that are so perfectly composed to show you mostly a garden. It’s mostly a beautiful shot of a, you know, a a very nice home with a manicured lawn. And then just in the corner, off to the very edge of the shot, there’s a little bit of barbed wire that you can catch. And that’s obviously just very intentional, even though a lot of that stuff was, was shot, somewhat extemporaneously with cameras just sort of placed around the house and the yard and and then a lot of, improvisation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:53

    And that that’s also true in the shots of the natural world. I mean, this is frequently a movie that shows you the characters and settings where they can’t see everything. Right? I mean, when you have them coming back from the lake and they’re coming through this sort of tall growth or coming, you know, up from a valley, or, you know, sort of in a road through woods. It’s not even when there isn’t a sort of fragment of the horror happening on the just the tiniest corner of the screen.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:24

    This is a movie where your the character’s vision is always obscured in some way. You know, it’s a long hallway. It’s like a narrow hallway. There’s there’s just always some things sort of occluded in the shot.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:36

    Right. Frankly, e even even in some of the shots. There’s one bit. Sony talked about the one that’s a little bit more, explicit with the the bone fragment, but that there’s another one where something simply washes through the river.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:49

    And you
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:50

    know what it is, and it’s it’s clear. And there is a color change that that happens And the the movie, again, is just suggestive in this way that I I do think is is quite powerful because it forces you to dwell on it. And I think in in some ways, you know, the movie is obviously it’s very literally and specifically about what it what it’s about. Right? It’s it’s about thought.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:10

    It’s about Auschwitz. It’s about the hol holocaust, but it is also about something a little bit larger, which is about the the ways that people can blind themselves to horrors that they that are just out of sight they they can kind of see, you know, they kind of know about. They hear the sounds. It’s all around them. They can’t be, you know, that they can’t be unaware, but they are But they just choose to go on living.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:39

    And, you know, I mean, reading some of the coverage of this movie, it seems like what Jonathan Last wanted to do was to talk about was to make a film about how people could go about living while this was happening right next to them. And the way they go the way they do that is they just sort of pretend it’s all very normal. And it’s it asks it asks viewers, I think, to think about what what it is that they are allowing to remain just out of sight beyond the wall that they know is happening. It’s it is a powerful and audacious immaculately crafted film. It is also one that is that is really quite uncomfortable to watch.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:16

    And I I think in some ways, fairly inappropriately. This this is not a comfortable topic, and it should not be easy. But, but it it’s it was a pretty intense experience. And I think one of the few movies that, we’ve watched that I’ve watched really as as an adult where I I’m not quite sure how I feel about the experience in a lot of ways.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:38

    Alyssa, what did what did you make of the zone of interest?
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:41

    I think it’s remarkable. And I wanted to go back to what you said about the sort of the invocation of Hannah Rent’s phrase, the sort of the banality of evil, which comes from her reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichman, who was brought a trial for his role in the Holocaust. And what she meant by that phrase, the banality of evil, was that Eichman who had helped carry out this world historical monstrosity was himself kind of a banal figure. He was not particularly handsome. He’s not particularly intelligent.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:18

    He had not done well in school. He didn’t bear any particular personal animist for Jews or ideological commitment, he was this bland little person who ended up being the architect of this monstrous thing. And the zone of interest comes at that the relationship of mundaneity and evil. A slightly different direction. Because it’s not about the hauses as people, really.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:49

    But it’s about the ways in which evil can be incorporated into household routine and invoked to incredibly petty ends. Right? And One of the reasons the scene of, you know, missus Hoss, trying on how do I, you know, try on this dead Jewish woman’s fur coat and trying out her lipstick is so repulsive is not just because it’s, you know, this is the one who’s having someone else loop dead bodies for her. But because she is willing to commit a moral enormity in service of her own vanity and acquisitiveness. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:33

    And when Rudolph is transferred, she throws a tantra because she finally has the house and the garden that she wants. And she says, you know, we’re doing what the fuhrer wanted us to. We’re, you know, we’re pursuing this living space. And, you know, I won’t do it. Say that I, you know, say that I have to be able to keep my house.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:53

    Right? And the idea that someone could be so radically self centered that they would want to keep living next to Auschwitz because of this, you know, bourgeois little garden that they planted, and the little swimming pool that they built for their kids, and the dead Jewish women’s clothes that she can steal. Is so nasty and repulsive and overwhelming. Right? I mean, it’s I mean, I like Christian Freedom a lot, and I don’t know if either of you watch Babylon and Berlin.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:32

    But he plays this like, kind, gay crime scene photographer in Babylon and Berlin. And so the sort of juxtaposition between his performance in that show in which he’s very good. And as this again sort of like mild mannered committed, bureaucrat here, know, it’s interesting, but I really think the movie belongs to Huller because she is, you know, Hedwig Hoss is the person who most exemplifies the routinization of evil and its routinization for incredibly stupid childish petty little domestic ends. Right? I mean, this is a woman for whom the Holocaust is a mean of means of satisfying not even her needs, not a deep grievance, not, you know, keeping her children out of poverty, but her pettiest wants.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:24

    And it is really a remarkable performance. In that sense, I actually think think it’s better than her performance in anatomy of a fall, which, for which she’s gotten more praise, but she is she’s playing someone who is not quite human in her utter humanity here. And I think she is the key to why the movie is so powerful and disturbing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:52

    I think she is she delivers the best performance and also, I I agree that I think that this is actually a better performance than anatomy of a fall. For the reasons you mentioned, but also a also as a contrast to the the grandmother who, you know, she shows up and once she realizes what is actually happening at Auschwitz? Like, literally, just, takes to drink and can’t sleep and then leaves without telling anyone. It’s just like, I gotta I gotta get out of here. And and and it’s it’s it’s it’s weird to say this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:24

    Again, this this movie strikes a number of weird reactions in me. It’s weird to say this, but it’s the grandmother figure almost feels like the closest thing to an audience surrogate. In the film, where, like, you could you could imagine your being in that situation kind of, as opposed to the wife who again, I, I, like, I think she just comes across as straightforwardly wicked Yep. In this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:46

    But it’s all and it makes a very interesting contrast with the scenes, the movie, at the end of the movie with the women who are cleaning the, you know, the museum at Auschwitz. And what is what is so interesting about those scenes as an inversion? It works on two levels. Right? I mean, the sort of consumer goods that Hedwig covets and pursues are, you know, they’ve aged.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:13

    They’re presented on mass. They’re detached from human beings who wore them. They’ve become evidence of a crime as opposed to consumables, but also the, you know, you never see had been doing domestically she has other people doing it for her. And so for the movie to focus not at the end, not on people who are visiting Auschwitz or on survivors, but people who are doing domestic work in service of the memory of the dead is a really I mean, it’s very stark and unnerving, but it’s also kind of beautiful in the sense that it is not this domestic fantasy. It is, you know, it is not acquisitive, but it’s routine care in service of the people who were murdered and in service of their memory.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:59

    And I found that very moving and that juxtaposition very moving.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:03

    What did you guys think of the, the the little subplot about the the girl planting the apples shot entirely in a sort of negative, not quite night vision?
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:13

    Well, it’s interesting in part because we know that some prisoners are killed for fighting over one of the apples. Right? And so or a pair or something. And so it’s both very striking, but it suggests that there’s something futile about resistance. It doesn’t so I it’s yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:37

    The the attempt is to return it into kind of a ghost story at the end. Is unsettling? I’m not quite sure what it aimed for. And so I don’t entirely know what I think about it. I find it visually very affecting and spooky.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:54

    This is my problem with those sequences again, is that so, as Peter mentioned, they’re they’re shot basically an infrared, in in in kind of black and whites, and they’re they are designed to, again, be aggressively different than what we’ve seen so far. But it just it feels like Laser calling attention to the the artificiality of it all in a way that there’s there’s a critique of Schindler’s list that goes The movie is, like, incredibly, effective and compelling, and it’s also a cheat. And the way that it is most a cheat is in the the little girl in the red jacket. Right, who you see walking through the, ghetto and then you see later her body on the, the pile of of dead bodies. And that is just spielberg, like, calling attention to, you know, he’s he’s basically showing off.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:47

    And that is almost how I feel about this these sequences. I it’s not it’s not just that it’s not that they show the futility of resistance or the the inability to affect change unless you are in a position of power, but but also that it’s, you know, it’s so weirdly unnecessary to the rest of it. I I I did not care for that just as I didn’t care for the sequences where the screen turns to red, or the even even the bit about so, Alyssa, you mentioned, the the close of the film, what happens is Rudolph has looks down a hallway, and it’s like he’s looking into the future or sees the future looking back at him, and we cut to the, museum at Auschwitz where it is being cleaned. And again, I I I appreciate what Glaser is going for here and the distancing nature of looking into the past and judging judging the past and the what what the weight of the judgment of the future on him, but I at the same time again, it was just like I don’t I don’t dig it. I don’t.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:59

    I don’t. And I I that’s how I felt about a lot of this movie. I feel awkward saying, negative things about a movie that I both think is a masterpiece. In a very specific way. And also, like, think doesn’t work because of the qualities that make it a masterpiece.
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:16

    I found some of that formal stuff to be the some of the most interesting stuff in the movie and maybe that’s just because that’s sort of where my mind goes during when it’s rather than focusing on some of the more sort of difficult stuff there. But, the the negative plot line there seemed to me, like, or, you know, the the story of the little girl shot it negative. I mean, it’s a little bit obvious, but it’s right. Like, this is the inversion of the rest of the story. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:40

    This is the this is the person who is there trying to do good and trying to make something, moral out of the most horrific situation imaginable and then of course she pulls the piece of music out, which is apparently a real thing that happened. Or or at least pretty close to a real thing that happened is that that that was a piece of music that was written, by someone in Auschwitz and then and then, made it out and was able it was, you know, it was something that could be played. And so seeing that as a sort of, in some ways, as Glaser saying, It’s not actually necessary in these circumstances to be the person or to be the family who acts like, hedwig does. Right? It’s not act like you can you can try to somehow or another to be better and to to know what’s happening and to do a little bit And maybe maybe it still is not maybe it doesn’t do much, but it is a sort of a it is it is there to not just be sort of relentlessly horrific.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:44

    But, I I also I mean, again, I just I find Glaser’s formal Bulwark so fascinating. Always have. Right? If you’re if you’ve looked at his I would just encourage, viewers to go look at his commercials and look at his some of his some of his past work music videos for radiohead, that sort of thing. He is so formally inventive and, to see it put to, such powerful ends here is, is really incredible even if I found it incredibly difficult to watch.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:12

    Okay. So what do we think about zone of interest, thumbs up or thumbs down, Melissa?
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:18

    I think it’s excellent, but also if you feel you can watch it, that’s totally understandable.
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:23

    Peter thumbs up and, you know, like I said, I I might have walked out, but, I I am glad I saw it. And, very difficult movie. I think might not be for everyone, but probably would have made my top ten list if I’d seen it before we did our top tens.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:39

    Again, I I give this kind of a halfhearted thumbs up in in so far as I do think it is it is great and also doesn’t entirely work. But hopefully, maybe maybe it gets people to I don’t know. I I I I hope people check it out and give it a chance, but I also do not dispute that it has It has issues. Alright. That is it for today’s show.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:04

    Many thanks to our audio engineer Jonathan Last without whom this program would sound. Much worse. May to swing by Bulwark Plus on Friday for our bonus episode. Tell your friends. A strong recommendation from a friend is basically the only way to grow podcast audiences.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:16

    But don’t grow, we will die. Give me that love today’s episode, please complain to me on Twitter at SunnyBunch. I’ll convince you that it is in fact Betro in your podcast feed. See you guys on Friday.
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