It took Jonathan Glazer ten years to release a follow-up feature to his critically acclaimed “Under the Skin,” but the hiatus afforded him the time to mine human history for a story that was even more chilling.
Glazer’s lauded Holocaust drama “The Zone of Interest,” focuses on the domestic activities of Auschwitz commander Rudolf Höss and his wife Hedwig as they build a life for themselves in a house that borders the infamous concentration camp. Much like Glazer’s previous works, the director extracts horror from the most mundane activities with his famously cold gaze. But while the film is a product of Glazer’s distinct style, he was only able to make it after years of meticulous research.
In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Glazer opened up about the film’s lengthy development process. The director revealed that one of the hardest steps of the process was traveling to Germany to visit the real Höss house at Auschwitz.
“I visited the house and the garden, which is not exactly like it was then. But it still exists. And being there, in that space — what struck me was the proximity of it to the camp. The house shared a wall with Auschwitz. It was all happening right there, on the other side of that wall. And the fact that a man lived there, and brought up his family there…” Glazer said. “How do you do that? How black a soul must be.”
Glazer recalled a conversation with Piotr Cywiński, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, who encouraged the filmmaker to travel to Auschwitz. While Glazer admits that he was afraid to visit the site of such historical atrocities, he credits the trip with providing the creative spark that inspired the film.
“He actually said to me: ‘Why are you doing this? Why do you want to do this?!’” he said. “I told him, ‘I have no idea. That’s why I am here.’ He advised me to go to Auschwitz, which… I’ll be honest, I had always been afraid of going there. But [Piotr] told me: ‘Go and listen. If you listen, one way or the other, you’ll find out.’”
“The Zone of Interest” is now playing in select theaters.