Exploring the Soundscape of Auschwitz

Exploring the Soundscape of Auschwitz

The film “The Zone of Interest” by Jonathan Glazer begins with a minute-long black screen, accompanied by a threatening symphony by Mica Levi. This soundtrack sets the tone for the drama about the family of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höß.

The film starts with a peaceful family scene, but the background is filled with the disturbing sounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. It creates a cognitive dissonance, highlighting the discrepancy between what the eye sees and what it feels like sounds evoke in us.

Infernal background noise

Glazer’s film, which has been nominated for five Oscars, is a free adaptation of Martin Amis’ novel of the same name. It consists of two films for Glazer: one to listen to, one to see. These two levels of perception never merge into an external reality, creating a disorienting and disturbing experience for the viewer.

The film uses the sound of the concentration camp to create a sense of unease and discomfort. The family is shown celebrating while orders to shoot are heard on the other side of the wall. This creates a stark contrast between the peaceful family scene and the horrifying reality of the concentration camp.

In reality TV show mode

The film’s naturalism creates a constant distance from the characters. The everyday activities of Hedwig Höß, the wife of the SS commandant, are recorded by ten fixed, continuously running cameras, simulating the surveillance mode of a reality TV show.

The film consists of rigid shots, creating a sense of detachment from the characters. The cruel reality of the concentration camp is not ignored, but rather creates its own reality in the moral vacuum.

Family man and monster

The film portrays Rudolf Höß as both a loving family man and a sadistic concentration camp commander. His softness is used as an excuse, arguing that he just wanted to protect his family. The roles of the loving family man and the sadistic concentration camp commander never coincide in the film.

The film shows the efficiency of the Auschwitz killing machine under Höß. Such incredible sentences like “Continuous operation possible!” are constantly said while the camera soberly continues to roll. At a Nazi reception, he tells his wife over the phone: “I was thinking about how I’m going to gas everyone in the ballroom.”

The film ends with a shot of today’s Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial, showing the interior of the camp for the first time. This is where the idea for Glazer’s film began and there is no more impressive place to end it – here in the present.