‘The Zone of Interest’: What to know about the Oscar nominee you probably haven’t seen yet

(NEXSTAR) — The 96th Academy Awards are just over a month away, so you’ve still got some time to catch up on all the Best Picture nominees. But there’s one inclusion on this year’s roster that you may not yet have had the opportunity to watch.

A deserving dark horse entry among this year’s nominees is the historical drama “The Zone of Interest,” directed by Jonathan Glazer (2013’s “Under the Skin”) and distributed by A24. The German-language film follows Nazi commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller, “Anatomy of a Fall”) during the Holocaust as they live their everyday lives right next to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

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But if you haven’t really even heard about “The Zone of Interest,” you’re not alone.

“The Zone of Interest” is currently only available to watch in theaters. But unlike two other Best Picture nominees that can only be seen on the big screen — “American Fiction” and “Poor Things” — “The Zone of Interest” had a much more limited release in the U.S.

So in case you’re not able to see it before the Oscars, here’s what to know about “The Zone of Interest.”

Is ‘The Zone of Interest’ based on a true story?

Yes and no.

Rudolf Höss was a real-life German SS officer who lived in a house right outside of Auschwitz with his wife Hedwig and their children, though the film is a dramatization of their lives. Director-writer Glazer based the screenplay on Martin Amis’ 2014 novel of the same name, which was centered around loosely fictionalized counterparts of the Höss family, with the parents named Paul and Hannah Doll.

When writing the film’s screenplay, Glazer became more fascinated with the fact that the real-life Höss home shared a garden wall with a camp wall. As The New York Times explains, this detail would inform the focus of Glazer’s screenplay, which also took liberties with Amis’ novel — including scrapping the love triangle. The director also decided to revert the Dolls back to the Höss family, and ultimately spent two years researching them.

What is ‘The Zone of Interest’ about?

Audiences coming into “The Zone of Interest” expecting a traditional Holocaust narrative will be surprised — the film is much more nuanced. The Holocaust isn’t necessarily the sole focus of the movie and Rudolf and Hedwig Höss aren’t portrayed as wickedly evil.

Glazer, who is Jewish, has instead explained that he wanted to create a more realistic peek into the everyday home life of the Höss family. As Glazer previously explained to the Guardian, “The Zone of Interest” aims to explore how ordinary humans can go about their lives while unspeakable tragedies are happening right next door.

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Glazer said the film is not about the past but about how all of us, today, ignore atrocities happening in the world.

“For me, this is not a film about the past. It’s trying to be about now, and about us and our similarity to the perpetrators, not our similarity to the victims,” Glazer said.

As with any film dealing with the Holocaust, “The Zone of Interest” isn’t an easy watch. In fact, the film builds upon increasing dread and unease, much in the way some of A24’s notable horror films like “Hereditary” and “Midsommar” do. Here, however, the horrors are real.

“The Zone of Interest” is a film that will leave you with a lingering upset, and it benefits from discussion among friends and family. While Glazer’s film has so far not been considered a frontrunner in the Academy Awards Best Picture race, it isn’t impossible to conceive of a surprise win based on its level of craft and ever-relevant themes.

Score: ★★★★☆

When will ‘The Zone of Interest’ be streaming?

There’s no firm date for when the movie will make it to your streaming service of choice just yet. But according to A24 Films, “The Zone of Interest” will expand to more theaters nationwide this weekend.

Below is a breakdown of where to watch this year’s Oscar-nominated movies.

Film

Director

Where to watch

“American Fiction”

Cord Jefferson

Theaters only

“Anatomy of a Fall”

Justine Triet*

Buy or rent on demand

“Barbie”

Greta Gerwig

Stream on Max or buy/rent on demand

“The Holdovers”

Alexander Payne

Stream on Peacock or buy/rent on demand

“Killers of the Flower Moon”

Martin Scorsese*

Stream on AppleTV+ or buy/rent on demand

“Maestro”

Bradley Cooper

Stream on Netflix

“Oppenheimer”

Christopher Nolan*

Buy or rent on demand

“Past Lives”

Celine Song

Buy or rent on demand

“Poor Things”

Yorgos Lanthimos*

Theaters only

“The Zone of Interest”

Jonathan Glazer*

Theaters only

The 96th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will be held Sunday, March 10 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

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