Oscar nominee Sandra Huller has said her harrowing new Holocaust film The Zone Of Interest highlights behaviour that is not so far away from our current global political climate.
The film, which is nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, is a slice of life drama about a family living in a house and garden next to Auschwitz.
Directed by British filmmaker Jonathan Glazer, who is also nominated for Best Director, it stars German actor Christian Friedel as Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss, while Huller plays his wife Hedwig, who is referred to as the “Queen of Auschwitz”.
Hoss was a long-serving Nazi officer who was widely acknowledged as one of the architects of mass extermination during the Holocaust.
Much of the film follows the mundanity of family life, never venturing inside the camp, while the background sound and the billowing smoke hints at the horrors taking place over the fence.
Huller, who has said she previously turned down roles as Nazis, told the PA news agency: “I wanted to do research on the question of ignorance and what it takes to be a human like that, and how this is connected to what we do today, and to take the risk of maybe recognising the patterns that aren’t so far from us, or me.
“And I realised that in the years before, although I don’t regret not taking on these roles because it’s a dangerous thing to get into this mindset, I had been a bit coward-ish before, when protecting myself from something that Jonathan pointed out isn’t so far away from us.
“It’s a decision to be a person like that. It is a decision that everybody can take, and that everybody can decide.
“Everybody can decide to be a decent human being, and everybody can decide to be a murderer. It is not something that happens to you.
“I found that really, really interesting. And I found it interesting to to investigate these things, what would it feel like.”
Friedel said it was important to recognise that the film is not purely a historical piece.
He said: “We talked about the importance of observing these characters and looking into the mirror, that we see ourselves, that we recognise this could be me in this situation, or this situation.
“We are living in difficult political times and I think art can help us, inspire us, to think about ourselves, our decisions and what can we do?
“And I think political changes start very often in the family. What do you hear from your parents? How do you live? What do you observe as a child?
“It’s so important to see people who are capable of ignoring a huge darkness, ignoring a horrible crime, to compartmentalise.”
He added: “Jonathan said one time that it’s a warning. And I think this unique piece of art is a warning to all of us.”
Huller, who is currently nominated for an Oscar for her role in the French crime drama Anatomy Of A Fall, continued: “I think this film shows even if you don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong, it can be wrong.
“We have to be careful with our impulses. How we are trying to keep our conveniences every day, on whose shoulders, on whose bodies, on what money? Is it worth it?
“All these things that we think are normal, maybe aren’t. I think it really raises the awareness for our everyday decisions, you can have a nice garden and a family and at the same time be like the worst criminal.”
The Zone Of Interest is out now in UK cinemas.