Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

“Zone of Interest”: Polish premiere of Jonathan Glazer’s film at the Auschwitz Museum

The picture tells the story of the family life, in the shadow of the crematorium chimneys, of Rudolf Hoess, the first commandant of Auschwitz. The film loosely refers to the war novel “Zone of interests” Martin Amis from 2014, which describes the love between Hoess and his wife Hedwig, with whom he had five children.

According to the museum’s director, Piotr Cywiński, the film is unique in many respects. “It is unique, among other things, in the way it is shot. A house like a house. Small rooms inside. (…) I visited the set; it turned out that there are a dozen or so cameras permanently installed inside, and in a container standing next to it there is the entire crew who can see a dozen or so screens and decides. Thanks to this, there were only actors at home who played as naturally as possible. (…) You can really feel this naturalness in this film,” he said.

Producer James Wilson said Jonathan Glazer liked the way he filmed several storylines happening simultaneously. “In my opinion, this is something new in cinema. (…) Many things happen at the same moment. (…) We created the feeling that you are a fly on the wall, observing what is happening. It’s very modern; not like a historical film,” he says.

Producer Ewa Puszczyńska said that this film – as she put it – “stands out in everything.” She emphasized that when watching “Business Zone” you can see two films. “One – we hear, and the other – we see. This is extremely distinctive. We do not show the victims. We show the torturers. (…) What we see and hear in our subconscious builds the image of this horror. We see a wonderful paradise right next to hell, which we hear. (…) This is very innovative,” she said.

The painting was created in cooperation with the Auschwitz Museum, which was carried out on various levels. Elements of the script and set design were consulted. His entire pronunciation was also discussed. The museum also supported the creators by providing access to camp documents, survivors’ accounts and substantive consultations. “Without the cooperation with the Auschwitz Museum, this film would not have been made,” said director Jonathan Glazer after the screening.

One of the themes is the help provided to prisoners of the Auschwitz camp by Poles from Oświęcim and the surrounding area who lived outside the titular interest zone. It was based on facts. The creators reached a woman from Brzeszcza, who told them her story.

Photos could not be taken on historic grounds. Only the last sequences of the film – documentary photos showing the museum’s work and objects left by the victims – were shot at the memorial site.

In 1922, Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess joined the Nazis by joining the NSDAP. The following year he participated in a political murder. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Thanks to amnesty, he was released from prison in 1928. After prison, he settled down on a farm in Brandenburg, and later in Pomerania, where he married Hedwig Hansel. His three children were born there. The fourth was born in Dachau, and the fifth in Auschwitz. In 1934 he joined the SS. He served in the guard unit and the management of the Dachau concentration camp. Four years later, he began serving in KL Sachsenhausen. The following year he was promoted to deputy commander.

In the spring of 1940, he was appointed commandant of the newly established Auschwitz concentration camp, where initially almost exclusively Poles were imprisoned. The camp was to serve as an instrument of terror and then extermination of thousands of Polish patriots. Gradually it turned into a place of mass extermination of Jews. They also died there, including: Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.

The Hoess family lived in a villa located right next to the camp barbed wire. “The children could run wild as much as they wanted, my wife had so many favorite flowers that she felt like she was in paradise among them,” Hoess wrote in his memoirs. His wife used to say: “Live here and die here.”

At the end of the war, the former commandant went into hiding. He was detained near Flensburg on the night of March 11-12, 1946. He was transferred to Poland. After the trial, he was sentenced to death and on April 16, 1947, executed in the former Auschwitz camp. The gallows was erected near the former commandant’s building.