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Anatomy of a Scene: Exploring ‘The Zone of Interest’

“Hello, my name is Jonathan Glazer, and I’m the writer and director of the ‘Zone of Interest.’ So we open the sequence on a prisoner gardener, one of whose duties is to clean Rudolf Höss, the commandant’s boots. So everything you’re going to see in this scene was shot simultaneously with 10 cameras. We’re watching Hedwig Höss here with her friends having — it’s a typical weekday morning in the Höss house. The cameras just shot those women in the kitchen, is running simultaneously with the cameras in here shooting this girl. And she is a character called Aniela, who was real and lived and worked in the Höss house as a domestic servant, like so many of the local Polish girls worked in SS houses for them and their families. I’m following her in this sequence rather than the main characters, because it’s really one of the only times in the film where we can see, and connect, and spend time with, essentially, a victim of these atrocities. She’s not a Jewish girl. She’s a local Polish girl. As long as she keeps her head down and gets on with her work, she’ll be safe. So that’s what you see here, really. My direction to her, I remember, was to be invisible. That’s what she had to do, and to do everything as if her life depended on it. So every action is so carefully considered here. She’s really fantastic. The purpose of shooting — using all these cameras simultaneously was because I really didn’t want to have the artificial construction of a conventional film to tell this story — rather, to view them anthropologically, as if we were a fly on the wall, really, and just watch how they behaved and how they interacted, and not get caught up in the sort of screen psychologies that one does when one uses close-ups, and film lighting, and so on. Everything you see was — there’s no film lighting at all. It’s all natural light. No film lights are used in the film, and it’s all shot simultaneously. And the effect as well, I think, puts the viewer in the same time as the actors. So we are kind of locked in a sort of present-tense atmosphere, as if this thing was really happening. There’s nothing to process in the way that we normally process films. It’s a sort of Big Brother effect, really. And what she’s doing is she is obviously collecting the boots of the commandant. He’s in a meeting. He’s come back from the camps with blood on them, and she’s letting him know that they’re ready. These guys in this scene are two senior engineers from a crematorium firm called Topf & Sons, who built and supplied crematorium to the various concentration camps.” – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] “The tone of this scene really is as if they’re selling air conditioning units. Because to them, effectively, that’s as much as human life mattered to them. In fact, they refer to them as pieces in this scene, not as human beings. And the map that he’s pointing to here was called the Ring Furnace, which was the latest design. They never got to build, but that was the latest design in crematorium technology. And he is hopeful that Rudolf Höss is going to buy it.” – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

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