Jonathan Glazer just delivered the first instant sensation of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. “The Zone of Interest,” only the director’s fourth feature film after “Sexy Beast,” “Birth” and “Under the Skin,” earned a six-minute standing ovation following its world premiere.
Glazer’s film is austere and challenging as it tells the story of the commandant of Auschwitz and his wife, who have created their dream home directly next to the concentration camp. The constant screams of prisoners, gun shots and smoke from the gas chambers haunt their paradise, but their indifference to such horrors creates a terrifying and sinister juxtaposition.
“Thank you very much, Glazer told the crowd after the standing ovation. “I’m really overwhelmed by this. It’s a dream. To be a part of this with you, thank you.”
The crowd gave Glazer and his actors a warm embrace after depicting so much horror on screen, showering them in a six-minute standing ovation. The crowd especially roared for Sandra Hüller, whose “queen of Auschwitz” character is the film’s most terrifying. After Glazer’s short speech, the crowd cheered some more for about a minute.
“The Zone of Interest” is loosely based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Martin Amis. The film stars “Toni Erdmann” actor Hüller as the wife of Rudolf Höss, the Auschwitz commandant during the Holocaust. The cast also includes Christian Friedel, Daniel Holzberg and Sascha Maaz.
In his review, Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman wrote, “It’s a remarkable film — chilling and profound, meditative and immersive, a movie that holds human darkness up to the light and examines it as if under a microscope. In a sense, it’s a movie that plays off our voyeurism, our curiosity to see the unseeable. Yet it does so with a bracing originality.”
It’s been a somewhat muted first few days of Cannes as the festival rolled out premieres for “Jeanne du Barry,” “Monster” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” among others. While the appearances of Johnny Depp and Harrison Ford at the festival made headlines, it’s mostly been stars generating buzz and not the movies themselves. “The Zone of Interest” has gotten the most rapturous response at Cannes so far.
For Glazer, “The Zone of Interest” marks his first time premiering a movie at the Cannes Film Festival. The English director often has long hiatuses between his directorial efforts. Nine years separated “Birth” and “Under the Skin,” while it’s been 10 years between “Under the Skin” and “The Zone of Interest.” “Birth” premiered at the Venice Film Festival, while “Under the Skin” launched at the Telluride Film Festival.
A24 is behind “The Zone of Interest” and is expected to release the film later this year.