Can you still make an original and shocking film about WWII? The answer is yes, if we take the example of “The Zone of Interest”, a new film by Jonathan Glazer presented in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
In an edition of the French event marked by many returns (among which we can also mention the fifth chapter of the Indiana Jones saga, which unfortunately is only half-convincing), there was great expectation right around the English director, who feature film from 2013, the year of the controversial and fascinating “Under the Skin”.
Central to the plot of “The Zone of Interest” is a German family living next door to the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz during World War II. The first non-English-language feature film for Glazer, “The Zone of Interest” is inspired to Martin Amis’ 2014 novel of the same name, from whose narrative basis a film was born that starts from a truly remarkable staging idea: the images do not show us what happens inside the concentration camp, but focus on the daily routine of the characters, between a mother intent on raising her children, house cleaning and a garden to cultivate in the best possible way to make a good impression with the guests. Beyond the walls that mark the end of the family property, you can see the towers and roofs of Auschwitz, or the smoke from the trains arriving at the camp.
A very strong and disturbing experience
These aesthetic choices make “The Zone of Interest” a very strong and disturbing audiovisual experience, also thanks to the impressive work done on the sound, both in the management of the sinister noises of the pitch, and for the electronically cut music by Mica Levi, composer of films such as “Jackie” by Pablo Larraín, “Monos” by Alejandro Landes and the aforementioned “Under the Skin”. Due to its formal rigor, the films of Michael Haneke may come to mind, but the most comparable film is “The Son of Saul” by László Nemes, a film also presented at Cannes in 2015, which recounted an experience in a concentration camp with equally original and alienating audiovisual choices. Also noteworthy is the conclusion of Glazer’s work, which performs a risky game of gazes between the past is present. By its very nature, “The Zone of Interest” is a film that could also divide, but the fact is that we are facing one of the most interesting works seen to date at this edition of the Cannes Film Festival.
About Dry Grasses
In the meantime, Nuri Bilge Ceylan has also returned to the Croisette, having raised the most coveted prize of the event in 2014 with “The Winter Kingdom”. The Turkish author presented his new film, “About Dry Grasses”, in competition he hopes to once again be included in the Festival’s palmarès which has made him one of its absolute favorites. The protagonist is Samet, a teacher in an institute in a small village in eastern Anatolia who has the great desire to one day move to Istanbul: the man has to complete a four-year cycle of teaching while waiting to be accepted in a school in the capital, but a completely unexpected event causes his hopes to collapse. He and a colleague are accused of inappropriate behavior by two female students of the school and it will be for him the beginning of a nightmare from which it will not be easy to wake up. As for “The Zone of Interest”, also in this case we are faced with a viewing experience that does not leave us indifferent: what hits the mark is above all a screenplay that speaks with great force of moral themes, social relationships and humans. Opening with images of a totally snowy landscape, “About Dry Grasses” plays with the symbolism of nature and with a series of dialogues of great theoretical and dramaturgical significance, especially when the protagonist is on stage together with a girl who could help him overcome the difficult moment. It is undoubtedly a difficult vision (there are almost 200 minutes) and not all the sequences are necessary, but the overall design stands up to the distance and also offers several passages of great cinema. Excellent performance of the protagonist Deniz Celiloglu.