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What is The Zone of Interest about?
The Zone of Interest uses a family’s extreme proximity to the Auschwitz concentration camp to explore our capacity to ignore the horrors around us and go about our daily lives. By using such an extreme example, it makes it easy for the viewer to feel disgust toward Rudolf and Hedwig Höss and horror at what their children hear every day. It’s easy to think we could never be so callous. Which leads directly to the film’s intended self-reflection—don’t we all, to some degree, do the same as the Höss family? Of course, a line clearly exists between us and them (hopefully). But where is it? And how close are we to it? The Zone of Interest presents a specific, timeless, universal idea that will prove relevant for decades to come. It’s certainly a masterpiece-level work. True visual literature.
Movie Guide table of contents
- Rudolf Höss – Christian Friedel
- Hedwig Höss – Sandra Hüller
- Claus Höss – Johann Karthaus
- Hans Höss – Luis Noah Witte
- Heideraud Höss – Lilli Falk
- Inge-Brigitt Höss – Nele Ahrensmeier
- Linna Hensel (Hedwig’s mother) – Imogen Kogge
- Elfryda – Medusa Knopf
- Oswald Pohl – Ralph Herforth
- Based on the novel The Zone of Interest – Martin Amis
- Written by – Jonathan Glazer
- Directed by – Jonathan Glazer
The ending of The Zone of Interest explained
The end of The Zone of Interest begins with Rudolf Höss still stationed in Oranienburg. He finds out he will lead a new operation, a massive transport of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz for extermination, meaning he could return home to his wife and children. He drifts through a fancy party. Afterwards, deep in the night, he calls his wife, Hedwig. He informs her that he’ll return home. She’s more concerned with the hour of his call. He casually mentions that while at the party he daydreamed how to gas everyone, noting the complication caused by the high ceilings.
Once off the phone, Rudolf finally begins to exit the immense offices of the Nazis. The building is empty. Deep in shadow. Hoss heads down multiple floors. Each seemingly identical to the last. He begins to dry heave. Recovers. Dry heaves more. Recovers. At one point, he notices the hallways on either side that seemingly lead to eternal darkness. Except one point of light. The camera focuses on it. And a door opens.
Suddenly, we’re in the present day. At the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. We see a cleaning crew prepping the place for a new day of operations. Vacuuming. Window washing. Dusting. We aren’t privy to the horrors that actually happened there. But we see evidence of them. Like the display of thousands of shoes, each pair having belonged to someone who was murdered by men like Höss. Then we cut back to the past, to Rudolf Höss still gazing down that hallway, as if he too saw what we saw.
He then heads down the next flight of stairs, as if into a pit.
The Zone of Interest has two levels. There’s everything we see. Then everything we hear. What we see is mostly a bland domestic documentary about a German family. What we hear, on the other side of a wall, are the atrocities of the Holocaust. The separation between those two things is the point of the film. Specifically, the way the Höss family has the ability to dissociate from the evil that’s literally in their backyard. Out of sight, out of mind, right? They never acknowledge it. They never recognize it. To them, the sound of gunfire might as well be the twittering of birds. The smokestack from the incinerators is the charming chimney of a neighbor. They’re monstrously oblivious.
At a Q&A that happened after the screening I attended, Jonathan Glazer said that he had Rudolf dry heave as a means of introducing the idea that even if the mind refuses to admit what’s going on that some part of the body is aware and responds. The assignment Rudolf received earlier that day was actually, in real life, named “Operation Höss”. And it was, like almost everything Holocaust-related, awful. Hungary shipped 437,402 Jews to Auschwitz. Approximately 400,000 went from trains right to gas chambers. In only 56 days. The remaining 40,000 became slave labor or subjects for Dr. Josef Mengele’s experiments.
While those details aren’t part of the film’s context, they’re part of the subtext. And one of the reasons why Hoss dry heaves, why his body responds so dramatically. He knows he will murder all those people. The same way he imagined gassing everyone at the party, he’s already seeing what will happen with the 400,000 new arrivals. The brief transition to the 21st century, to the museum, is a way to acknowledge what he will do, that amount of shoes that will be left behind because of this man’s ruthless efficiency. Rudolf himself doesn’t see the museum, but the museum is just semantics for what he does see—death. And even if his mind treats it as nothing more than a problem to solve, his body reacts. In total, the real Rudolf claimed responsibility for over a million murders.
A psychologist, Gustave Gilbert, described Höss as “a man who is intellectually normal, but with the schizoid apathy, insensitivity and lack of empathy that could hardly be more extreme in a frank psychotic.”
Before his execution by hanging, in, of all places, Auschwitz, Höss said: In the solitude of my prison cell, I have come to the bitter recognition that I have sinned gravely against humanity. As Commandant of Auschwitz, I was responsible for carrying out part of the cruel plans of the Third Reich for human destruction. In so doing I have inflicted terrible wounds on humanity. I caused unspeakable suffering for the Polish people in particular. I am to pay for this with my life. May the Lord God forgive one day what I have done. I ask the Polish people for forgiveness. In Polish prisons I experience for the first time what human kindness is. Despite all that has happened I have experienced humane treatment which I could never have expected, and which has deeply shamed me. May the facts which are now coming out about the horrible crimes against humanity make the repetition of such cruel acts impossible for all time.
That’s what Glazer foreshadows by having his Rudolf almost throw up. The first seed of his conscience grappling with what he’s done, what he will do.
The phone call with Hedwig seems to confirm a hollowness at the core of their relationship. Something that was first hinted at when Hedwig wanted to stay at the house in Auschwitz rather than move with Rudolf to Oranienburg. You could imagine there might have been something real at the beginning but the time at Auschwitz served to erode their capacity for serious emotion.
And we can look at the inclusion of the museum in the 21st century as a way to honor both those who perished and those who work to maintain a sense of awareness in order to, in the words of Rudolf, “make the repetition of such cruel acts impossible for all time.”
The themes and meaning of The Zone of Interest
Out of sight, out of mind
The Zone of Interest uses the Höss family’s living situation as an extreme example of the human capacity for denial and rationalization. A regular person would want to (or should want to) abandon that house as soon as possible. Which is what we see with Hedwig’s mother. She’s there one night, is flabbergasted, then flees in early dawn, without a goodbye. Hedwig, on the other hand, loves it there. She shows off her yard, greenhouse, and pool, all while we hear gunshots, screams, and all the other audible nuances of atrocity. When Rudolf says the family has to move, Hedwig fights to stay. As if the house were on a beach in Hawaii and not butting up against one of the most evil places to ever exist on the face of the Earth.
It’s easy for the audience to look at Rudolf and Hedwig with disgust. To feel superior to them. To believe you could never be so callous. That’s good. You should. feel all those things. But the point of Zone of Interest is to challenge the viewer’s awareness of their own “zone of interest”. The Höss family is the severe end of the spectrum. You’re far from them. But how far? As much as we’d like to think the answer is “as far as possible” the truth is that all of us, to some degree, are like Rudolf and Hedwig.
For example, if you live in a city, you probably see unhoused people. Do you stop and help? Do you provide shelter? Do you make demands of the city? Do you go back to your house, fill up a bag with supplies, then return to the person and give them the items? Do you donate to charities? Do you vote in elections?
We know there is a burgeoning environmental crisis. Do you recycle? Or do any of the multitude of other things you could to help (ignoring the reality of what little impact it would probably make)?
Every day, we make choices to engage with or ignore certain situations. Those can be very local and personal, like a conflict between coworkers. Or being in line at a store when someone begins to berate the salesperson. Or a friend who has had a number of drinks and decides to drive home because they don’t want to Uber and leave their car. How strongly do you react? Do you take their keys? Do you stand in their way? Do you order an Uber for them? Do you offer to drive them the next day? Do you drive them home in their car then Uber back for your car? Or do you shrug and tell yourself they seem good enough?
The situations can also be on a national or international level and involve politics, war, humanitarian disasters, etc. If you tried to engage with every single story in the news cycle, every conflict, every bit of turmoil, every natural disaster, and tried to be informed and on the “good” side of it all and to help—would you have room for anything or anyone else?
The fixed time of each day and our limited capacity to effect change, our fear of danger, or sense of overwhelming ignorance, the responsibility we feel to friends, family, work, the comfort we feel with where our life is at—all of these things contribute to what we allow ourselves to be aware of and become involved in. For better and worse.
The reality is, all of us do less than we should. Most of us accept that a certain amount of tragedy is part of life. We just don’t like to acknowledge that aspect of ourselves, of the world. Instead, we do like the Höss family and focus on our side of the wall.
Glazer doesn’t seem to be directly chastising people. Rather, he’s simply presenting the idea that we do this. And no matter how good we are at ignoring the bad things, there’s part of us that can’t help but feel it and react to it. Which is why Rudolph has, in that final scene, the gagging fit.
It’s a healthy thing to be aware of. And one of the reasons The Zone of Interest will be such a powerful and lingering experience for people. It’s not simply a historical drama so much as an exposè on one facet of the human condition, a reflection that transcends time and place and gets at a core, brutal truth about people. What’s out of sight is often out of mind. And that’s how many of us get through the day.
We are all just people, until…
In an interview with Rolling Stone Jonathan Glazer recalled seeing a National Geographic magazine that had images of the Holocaust: I remember thinking that they were real people in these images. The people who were being beaten in the streets , who were being put on trains, who soldiers found at the camps when they liberated them—they looked like my relatives. They looked like me… I had a feeling I had to do something about our similarities to the perpetrators rather than the victims. When you say, “They were monsters,” you’re also saying: “That could never be us.” Which is a very dangerous mindset.
So keep that in mind as you read this next part.
Zone of Interest opens with the Höss family spending time together on the banks of a river, all in swimwear. There’s nothing to identify them. Who they are, where they are. They’re simply generic, happy humans. They splash, swim, trudge home, turn off the lights, then go to bed. It could be your family. My family. There’s something universal and endearing.
Then we cut to the next day. The nice father comes out in the uniform of a Nazi officer. Oh. It’s a family of Nazis.
It’s a whiplash-inducing moment. We inherently have an inclination to root for the protagonists of a story. So the opening scene at the river sets us up to do just that. But when we find out they’re Nazis, we immediately recoil. That is not who we want to sympathize with or be on the side of.
The kids give their father a birthday present. That’s a sweet moment. Except it’s completely overwhelmed by the fact that Rudolf is the commandant of Auschwitz. He’s a monster. That knowledge triggers turmoil in the viewer. Part of us only sees kids doing something nice for their father and how pure that is. While another part of us can’t help but feel anger, disgust, a desire to distance, etc.
One of the many dumb parts of the Holocaust was Hitler’s racial beliefs. The Nazis actually came up with a whole race-theory that classified different groups of people as inferior and others as superior. That led to the Aryan master race concept. The reality is—we’re all inherently the same. We may have different physical features. But other than that? No difference. The Human Genome Project proved that on a genetic level every single person is 99.9% identical. No matter race.
People are just people. Until they aren’t. Our perception of someone changes based on labels we assign value to relative to our own sense of morality, likes, and dislikes. Which is dependent on experience, culture, and situational context. Before Hitler came to power, Jews in Germany were quite assimilated within the culture. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum notes that “In 1910, 60 percent of German Jews lived in urban areas with more than 100,000 inhabitants. In 1933 more than 70 percent of German Jews resided in cities.” Despite whatever antisemitism existed, enough people accepted Jews for the population to grow.
But when Hitler labeled Jewishness as something to hate, the neighbor someone had previously been fine with suddenly became a sub-human. A vile villain to evacuate. Not because they had said or done anything. But due to what’s best described as brainwashing.
The Höss family were nothing more than an average family. Until we see the uniform. Now a label exists. Nazi. And in floods context and subtext that changes how we feel.
This opens up a whole conversation about the idea of labels. Some are completely arbitrary, unfair, ridiculous, and limiting. Others are earned. Regardless of the validity, we are all prone to prejudices and biases that we associate with a label. Glazer recognized that as a core part of why the Holocaust was possible. Then constructed the opening of Zone of Interest in such a way that we would do the exact thing as the perpetrators—go from seeing someone as human to seeing them as sub-human.
That’s what makes The Zone of Interest more than simply a “Holocaust movie” but a film about human nature. And a reminder that the same ingredients that made the Holocaust possible are within all of us. Then. Now. Forever. And the only thing that will stop history from repeating is self-awareness.
Why is the movie called The Zone of Interest?
The title is a carry over from the Martin Amis novel that served as a foundation for the film. In the novel, it has three applications.
First, it refers to a physical place. A website about Auschwitz explains the Zone of Interest: An SS-administered area of over 40 sq. km established in early 1941 after the expulsion of Poles and Jews from the villages near the camp. The inhabitants of one of the Oświęcim districts were also expelled. Its creation reflected the desire of the camp authorities to remove witnesses to the crimes of the SS, as well as to impede contact between prisoners and the outside world; Rudolf Höss wrote in one of his reports that “the surrounding populace is fantastically Polish” and ready to help escapees “as soon as they reach the first Polish farmstead.” Another important motive was the confiscation of land for camp farms. By 1943, as a result, about nine thousand people were expelled from the area and more than a thousand houses demolished. The construction material thus obtained was used to build barracks in the Birkenau camp. Later, the SS organized eight sub-camps in the area. Prisoners from these sub-camps worked in the fields, raised animals and maintained fish ponds.
So the Zone of Interest was the area the SS had total control over. The administrators of the camp also lived there. So the title initially just refers to the novel’s setting.
The second level refers to the novel’s love triangle between the commandant’s wife and an SS officer. So the “interest” from the title can refer to their romantic attraction.
The third application is a bit more metaphoric. From the novel: Under National Socialism you looked in the mirror and saw your soul. You found yourself out. This applied, par excellence and a fortiori, (by many magnitudes), to the victims, or to those who lived for more than an hour and had time to confront their own reflections. And yet it also applied to everyone else, the malefactors, the collaborators, the witnesses, the conspirators, the outright martyrs (Red orchestra, White Rose, the men and women of July 20), and even the minor obstructors, like me, and like Hannah Doll. We all discovered, or helplessly revealed, who were were. Who somebody really was. That was the zone of interest.”
The point there is essentially saying that the Holocaust caused people to make choices that showed who they really were. For example, some hid Jewish families in secret rooms. Like Anne Frank. Others reported those who hid Jewish families. Helmut Kleinicke was a Nazi officer who did what he could to keep Jews in labor camps and away from death camps. While Rudolf Höss gleefully optimized the executions of hundreds of thousands.
We see it with the divide between Hedwig and her mother. Hedwig happily lives next to a concentration camp. She owns a fur coat that was seized from a Jewish woman. She profits off others losing their lives. And it doesn’t bother her. Meanwhile, Hedwig’s mother can’t bear to be around her daughter for more than a day. She’s disgusted by the lifestyle.
The girl on the bike? Under normal circumstances, she’s just a kid who does kid things. But in the Zone of Interest, she risks her life as part of the resistance. That’s who she is. Someone who puts others above herself.
But the movie is a bit different. It drops the love triangle. And it doesn’t have the dialogue that associates the Zone of Interest with a revelation of who you really are. So what’s the title actually refer to?
Jonathan Glazer’s use of The Zone of Interest refers to our ability to focus attention. There’s the famous selective attention test by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, also known as the invisible gorilla, where experimenters asked people to watch a video and count how many times a group passed a basketball back and forth. The video started. The group passed. The video ended. The subjects responded with how many passes. Then the experimenters asked if they saw the gorilla. A gorilla?
From Chabris and Simons: …we found that half of the people who watched the video and counted the passes missed the gorilla. It was as though the gorilla was invisible. This experiment reveals two things: that we are missing a lot of what goes on around us, and that we have no idea that we are missing so much.
Participants had been so hyper-focused on the basketball that many of them never noticed someone in a gorilla suit walk through the shot. Once you look for it, it’s clear as day. But when you have a task that narrows your attention to a specific area, it’s easy to overlook everything else.
That’s what Glazer refers to by the title The Zone of Interest. If something is in our zone of interest, we recognize it, think about it, engage with it.
For example, if you’re a NFL fan, you’re probably aware of when each team plays. Their records. Who the stars are. The various storylines and dramas. You watch games, seek out highlights, conversation, memorabilia, etc. The NFL is part of your life.
But that comes with a cost. A zone implies limited space.The more you focus on the NFL, the easier it is to be unaware of other things. World news. Politics. What your aunt and uncle have been up to. Popular music. Bills. How much you dislike your job. How frustrated you are with your friends. How much you don’t like where you live.
We see this with Hedwig. She stays constantly busy because she wants her zone of interest constantly full. If it wasn’t, she might actually stop to consider where she’s living and what’s happening on the other side of the wall. It’s the same with Rudolf. He’s so caught up in logistics that it allows him to look at his victims as statistics rather than humans.
Zone of Interest is a challenge to the viewer, a dare to be aware of our own walls. What we keep inside. And what we keep out. And what that says about who we really are.
Important motifs in The Zone of Interest
The totally black screen that opens the movie
Before we see the Höss family at the river, Glazer presents an all-black screen. There’s no visual whatsoever. Just audio. Some might find it unsettling, confusing, or boring. Or all of the above. Some might even think it’s pointless. But it’s actually really important.
The Zone of Interest is two movies. All the horrors of the concentration camp are in the audio. So while we watch Hedwig stroll through her garden, we hear, on the other side of the wall, gunshots, screams, etc.
If you don’t signal that dichotomy early, it’s possible for viewers to overlook how important the ambient sounds are to the film. So how do you convey that? How do you prime the viewer to pay attention to ambience more than normal? Glazer’s solution was that opening darkness where we get no image but an overwhelming tone. He said to Rolling Stone: I wanted viewers to realize that they’re submerging. It was a way of tuning your ears before you tune your eyes to what you’re about to view. There is the movie you see here—and there is the movie you hear.”
The girl planting apples
When Glazer went to Auschwitz to research, he met a woman who had lived in the village outside the camp. Her name was Alexandria. From The Guardian:
The scene came about as a result of Glazer meeting a 90-year-old woman called Alexandria, who had worked for the Polish resistance when she was just 12. She recounted how she had cycled to the camp to leave apples, and how she had found [a] mysterious piece of music, which, it turned out, had been composed by an Auschwitz prisoner called Thomas Wolf, who survived the war. “She lived in the house we shot in,” says Glazer. “It was her bike we used, and the dress the actor wears was her dress. Sadly, she died a few weeks after we spoke.
He pauses for a long moment. “That small act of resistance, the simple, almost holy act of leaving food, is crucial because it is the one point of light. I really thought I couldn’t make the film at that point. I kept ringing my producer, Jim, and saying: ‘I’m getting out. I can’t do this. It’s just too dark.’ It felt impossible to just show the utter darkness, so I was looking for light somewhere and I found it in her. She is the force for good..”
(Brief note: in the Q&A I attended, Glazer said they were pears. It doesn’t matter all that much. But wanted to at least get it on the record.)
So much of Zone of Interest is sad, frustrating, and scary. But the girl who provides food is, as Glazer said, a reminder that light still shines through. That people do resist. In small ways. But it’s all important. The food she left meant something to those who found it. It may not have changed their fate. But it may have saved their souls.
“Sunbeams” by Joseph Wulf
As the girl leaves food for the Jewish prisoners, she comes across a sheet of music. Later, we watch as she plays the music on a piano. Glazer opts to add in non-diegetic elements by including a recording of Joseph Wulf as he performs “Sunbeams”.
We see the translated lyrics: Sunbeams, radiant and warm/Human bodies, young and old/And who are imprisoned here/Our hearts are yet not cold/We who are imprisoned here/Are wakeful as the stars at night/Souls afire, like the blazing sun/Tearing, breaking through their pain/For soon we’ll see that waving flag/The flag of freedom yet to come
Joseph Wulf was an actual Holocaust survivor. What we hear is a real recording found in his home, one of several that have joined historical archives. The non-diegetic aspect of using the recording and the implications of it ties-in with the cut to modern-day Auschwitz. They seem to be Glazer’s way of transcending the film and reminding us that these were real events. Not part of a fiction but a tremendous thing that remains relevant to our present.
It also serves as a stark contrast to the lack of sentimentality we see from the Höss family. They’re so incredibly bland, stoic, and disconnected because it’s the only way they can survive the horrors of their actions. Whereas the girl and Wulf tap into their humanity and artistry. They are, as Glazer said, points of light in the midst of the darkness that makes up the majority of the film.
The Thermal Imaging Camera
Tim League, the founder of the Alamo Drafthouse, asked Jonathan Glazer about this at my screening. Glazer noted that the film uses natural light. So they didn’t want to have to light the night scenes. But then you couldn’t really film in the dark. That led to the use of the thermal imaging camera.
So there was a practical reason to employ the camera. But in other interviews Glazer noted that “there’s something very beautiful and poetic about the fact that it is heat, and she does glow. It reinforces the idea of her as an energy.”
That refers back to what Glazer had said about the girl representing light and hope in darkness. The greyscale of thermal imaging renders the world completely dark except for the things that bring warmth—like the girl and the food she leaves behind.
Questions & answers about The Zone of Interest
How similar is the movie to Martin Amis’s novel The Zone of Interest?
Pretty different. Amis’s novel involves a love triangle and has three primary characters. An officer, the commandant, and a Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz. The commandant character was based on Rudolf Höss, which is how Jonathan Glazer landed on the Höss family.
Glazer essentially used the bones of the novel but didn’t actually adapt the novel. He wanted to emphasize completely different things.
What did Höss find in the water?
A human bone. He realized that people at the camp had dumped bodies or remains into the river. Which is why he immediately has his kids exit the river.
Did Rudolf cheat on Hedwig?
Definitely. It’s unclear if he had often cheated but after Hedwig refuses to go with him on his new assignment, he cheats with what seems to be a young local girl. It’s a way for him to hurt Hedwig without actually confronting her, since he feels hurt. And a way to re-establish his ego.
Why was Rudolf in the hospital?
Near the end, we see Rudolf having a medical exam. A doctor does some pressure checks on Rudolf’s stomach. But it doesn’t seem that anything is immediately wrong. Not long after, at the very end, Rudolf gags on his way down the stairs. Our initial thought might seem that this is a byproduct of whatever he had gone to see the doctor about. Maybe he’s sick? Maybe he has something wrong?
Glazer clarified that Rudolf’s dry heaving was his body’s acknowledgement to the horror of Operation Höss, an extermination of over 400,000 people. Glazer said he wanted to show that even if we can lie to ourselves to justify certain actions, our bodies still recognize how terrible some things are.
With that in mind, we can read that earlier visit to the doctor as the first implication that Rudolf’s body was finally responding to all the disgusting things he’s been a part of. He’s wondering if he has something medically wrong. When it’s more an ailing of the soul.
Did the Höss family really live that close to Auschwitz?
Did real-life Hedwig really not want to leave the house?
What happened to Rudolf Höss?
He and Hedwig changed their names and went into hiding. A Nazi hunter actually tracked him down. He was tried for crimes against humanity and eventually executed.
What does “banality of evil” mean?
The phrase comes from Hannah Arendt. Arendt was a Jew who saw the writing on the wall with Hitler and got out of Germany ahead of the Holocaust. She wrote a book about the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Eichman was one of the architects of the Final Solution. He was arrested in 1945 but escaped and fled to Argentina but Mossad tracked him down and arrested him in 1960. He stood trial in Israel. Eichmann famously said he was just “doing his job”.
So Arendt called her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
The “banality of evil” refers to how emotionless Eichmann was. He wasn’t some dramatic anime villain burning with hatred and ready to monologue about it. So if he didn’t hate Jewish people, he must have felt bad about what he did, right? Not at all. There was a bored detachment from the whole thing. Eichmann wasn’t a main character. Just someone who would do what he was told. Psychologists who examined Eichman concluded that he had no personality disorders—he was actually pretty average.
Arendt’s conclusion was that the Nazis weren’t a massive population of psychopaths. “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.”
This is the final stretch before the epilogue:
Adolf Eichmann went to the gallows with great dignity. He had asked for a bottle of red wine and had drunk half of it. He refused the help of the Protestant minister, the Reverend William Hull, who offered to read the Bible with him: he had only two more hours to live, and therefore no “time to waste.” He walked the fifty yards from his cell to the execution chamber calm and erect, with his hands bound behind him. When the guards tied his ankles and knees, he asked them to loosen the bonds so that he could stand straight. “I don’t need that,” he said when the black hood was offered him. He was in complete command of himself, nay, he was more: he was completely himself. Nothing could have demonstrated this more convincingly than the grotesque silliness of his last words. He began by stating emphatically that he was a Gottgläibiger, to express in common Nazi fashion that he was no Christian and did not believe in life after death. He then proceeded: “After a short while, gentleman, we shall all meet again. Such is the fate of all men. Long live Germany, long live Argentina, long live Austria. I shall not forget them.” In the face of death, he had found the cliché used in funeral oratory. Under the gallows, his memory played him the last trick; he was “elated” and he forgot that this was his own funeral.
It was as though in those last minutes he was summing up the lesson that this long course in human wickedness had taught us—the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.
In short, it means that true evil is often boring, unoriginal. It’s not the heightened, dramatic thing from movies or books. It’s not embodied so much in the theatrics of Hitler but the bland simplicity of Eichmann and the many like him.
Now it’s your turn
Have more unanswered questions about The Zone of Interest? Are there themes or motifs we missed? Is there more to explain about the ending? Please post your questions and thoughts in the comments section! We’ll do our best to address every one of them. If we like what you have to say, you could become part of our movie guide!