“The Business District” – a film review by Jonathan Glazer

“The Business District” wins the Academy Award for Best International Film. Is this movie a masterpiece? Without a doubt. Jonathan Glazer's production is an image forever etched in cinema history.

It can be said that this is another attempt to address the topic of the Holocaust, Nazi crimes, and the banality of evil. After all, it tells the story of the daily lives of Commander Rudolf Hoss, his wife Hedwig, and their five children living next to the wall of Auschwitz. It will certainly be compared with works such as “Life is Beautiful”, “The Reader” or “Schindler’s List” on the one hand, and “Shoah” or “Son of Saul” on the other (by the way in terms of content and emotions it is the exact opposite of the latter). However, Glazer's latest film is so discrete, original and interesting that it should be placed on that shelf in a separate compartment, or perhaps even in a special display case.

“Business District” (Photo: Gutek Film press materials)

Let's start with the fact that it is well documented. Piotr Sivinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Oświęcim, recently told Gazeta Wyborcza that he was very impressed by the thoroughness of the research and consultations carried out by Glazer's team, who spent weeks in their archives. Thanks to photos from the family album of one of Hus's descendants, which he donated to the museum, it was possible to recreate a scene of summer fun in a swimming pool in the park, for example. Everything was filmed in a villa next door to the one inhabited by the Hoss family, but its interior has been reconstructed to the smallest detail. How was it filmed? Cinematographer Łukasz Żal hides the cameras from the actors so that we feel as if we are peeking into someone's life through a keyhole. There are several scenes where someone walks down the corridor and closes and opens the door one by one.

“Business District” (Photo: Gutek Film press materials)

In other instances, Höss's servants prepare dinner, polish shoes or sew clothes, Rudolf himself reads a bedtime story to the children, and the dog – particularly a female servant of Sandra Höller, who plays Hedwig – pesters the whole family and demands treats. . Some will say – idealism, others – boredom. Yet we watch these snapshots of everyday life with suspense and anticipation of what comes next. After all – for God's sake – the greatest crime in human history takes place just a few meters away!

“Business District” (Photo: Gutek Film press materials)

And this is where Glazer's genius reveals itself – he decided to convey the entire horror of war, or rather mass genocide, only in the vocal layer. Yes, we (and not just us) see a glow of light hovering over the ovens of a crematorium running through the night, or officers appear at Hoss's house, we notice the wall of said camp, but never an image that we know well from it appears. Previous “camp” films. Instead, we hear gunshots and screams – both of the SS men and of the prisoners. Sometimes, among the sounds coming from a distance, we can distinguish a child crying, a crying woman, or some mechanical sound , most likely a detonator opening a train car. After all, we're good at matching the visual layer to it in our imagination because we know what happened at Auschwitz.

“Business District” (Photo: Gutek Film press materials)

The whole thing is complemented by haunting, piercing sounds created by composer Mica Levy and sound editor Johnny Bron. They open and close the entire film, and they also fill in the sequence that interrupts the main narrative, where we see a girl in the negative, perhaps one of the survivors. You can't forget these sounds. We will never forget the photos and videos documenting the horror of the Holocaust, or at least I hope we won't. How is it possible that the people of the villa can't hear them? As if, as in the children's game “Hell and Heaven,” they change the perspective to the one that suits them with one movement of their hand. According to Nazi propaganda, Jews were not human, so who is talking about crimes against humanity? This is also what “Strefa Biznesu” is about – the process of dehumanization, the division into “ours” and “others”, “humans” and “sub-humans”, is very easy.

“Business District” (Photo: Gutek Film press materials)

It can be said that “Area of ​​Concern”, loosely based on the book of the same title by Martin Amis, shows the human face of those who are remembered as the greatest war criminals. Amis talked about the SS officer's relationship with the camp commandant's wife, and Glazer focused on family life. We see Rudolf Hoss (Christian Friedel) here alone “after work”. He kisses his wife on the cheek, fishes, swims with his children in Sula, rides horses, and watches birds. He was clearly very connected to nature, as he had a plaque hanging above the entrance to the stables at the camp that read: “On the backs of horses lies paradise on earth.” Yes, heaven. This word appears frequently in the film. The most common words come from Hedwig, who created not only a garden rich with plants, but also an area – no matter how terrible it may sound – of relaxation and peace for her family. There is a swimming pool with a fountain, a greenhouse and a gazebo. In real life, Mrs. Hoss seemed to say “here to live and here to die,” so it was no wonder that when her husband was transferred to the headquarters in Oranienburg, she insisted on staying with the children. “They're going to have to get me out of here by force,” he says in the film. I have no words to express how wonderful the role of Sandra Höller is, who in a recent interview with “Zwierciadło” admitted that for the first time she did not try to understand her heroine or give the audience a chance to understand her. As a result, she created a much more undesirable character than her husband. Scenes in which he tries on a fur coat from Canada, the warehouse in which Jewish property was deposited at Auschwitz, but also proudly shows his mother, who is visiting them for the first time, what she planted where, and then, in anger at her departure, scolds the maid or the one who asks In which her husband takes her to a spa – it shows not only the shallowness of her character, but also her greed and stupidity. Because we do not see on the screen psychopathic killers, sadistic criminals, monsters or monsters. These are completely – one might say – ordinary, average people to whom the war gave an opportunity to climb the ladder of success and expand their vital sphere – in the literal sense of the word. Because let us remember that wars are also, and perhaps primarily, battles over areas of interest.

“Business District” (Photo: Gutek Film press materials)

“Business District” in cinemas starting March 8, 2024.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

“Doppelgänger. Double” by Jan Holobek to open the 48th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia

The psychological thriller “Doppelgänger. Double” by Jan Holubek will open the 48th…

She was 16 years old and played nude scenes with Bogus³aw Linda. My mother gave me a choice, so I took it.

“Sarah” is a story in which Leon—an ex-commando, divorcee, and alcoholic in…

Prequel has escaped the carnage! HBO Max will make the series though

HBO Max has dropped project after project in recent months. However, it…

Aquaman 2 in the new trailer. The trailer shows off more footage from the latest DC Extended Universe film

End big with a bang? Warner Bros. Discovery has released the international…