The banality of evil as seen in the daily life of the Hoss family, Rudolph, Hedwig and their children. He's the commandant of Auschwitz and she is the happy homemaker. We witness their daily life just outside the wall of the extermination camp.
My thoughts and feelings for this film have changed in the 24 plus hours since I first saw it. They have changed so much that the only thing that survives from the first attempt at writing this review is the first paragraph.
Jonathan Glazer's intellectually disturbing film is focused on showing that the perpetrators of evil are just like us, They have families, they love and have fights. The purpose is not to glorify them but to show them as they really are and as such show us that we have the potential of being them.
The horror largely comes not from what we see, we are literally largely walled off from the horrors, but what what we know is on the other side of the wall. Indeed, other that one shot of Rudolph in the camp (shot from a low angle so he is silhouetted against the sky and smoke, we know where he is from the sound), all we see are the tops of buildings, smoke stakes and at night the fiery glow of the crematoria. The horror is added to by the sounds we hear the drone of the factory that is the camp, the occasional scream or dog bark. We are horrified because we know what is happening.
What happened to me over the last 24 hours is I realized that this is not an emotional film but an intellectual one. This is a film that is, ultimately cold and calculating. As much as Glazer wants us to kind of connect to the Hoss', most of us never will. As much as he tries to show them as just another couple, albeit in Nazi regalia, we really can't disconnect because we know in real life they are monsters (though Hedwig insisted she didn't know anything). Somewhere in the last 24 hours I realized that as well made and intellectually engaging as the film is I never really felt anything.
Basically anything I thought I felt I don't think I really did, I just thought I did because I thought I should. Okay yes the night time orange glow over the camp is viscerally disturbing, as is the flash forward sequence toward the end since it is the one time it makes things real, but mostly there is no emotion only a purely intellectual exercise.
Glazer has so carefully calculated the film he was making that he has made a perfect mechanical machine. Other than in fleeting moments this film is colder than a piece of ice. To put it another way, he has made a film about the loss of humanity that kind of doesn't have any in it. The line that sticks in my head is it's a film about the banality of evil that is banal.
Does that make it a bad film? Maybe...? I mean outside of some fleeting moments I didn't feel anything more than I felt reading the synopsis in the festival guide. While the film serves an intellectual purpose I'm not certain it will live on past a certain point only in that there is not enough emotional about it to make you want to share it or experience it a second time