Increasingly Deafening Noise: Exploring Cognitive Harmony Amidst Moral Quandaries in Filmmaker Tony Gilroy’s Revelations

Chicago, IL – In today’s world, the dissonance between what people know is right and what they actually do seems to be reaching new heights. This observation comes from acclaimed filmmaker Tony Gilroy, known for his thought-provoking movies, such as his directorial debut, “Michael Clayton.” Gilroy’s recent discussion on the “Unclear and Present Danger” podcast brought up these moral quandaries and connected them to Jonathan Glazer’s film, “The Zone of Interest.” While Gilroy’s words resonated with me, it became apparent that this idea of interconnectedness extends beyond our personal experiences.

Glazer, the director of “The Zone of Interest,” sees his film as a reflection of the present rather than just a portrayal of the past. Based on Martin Amis’s novel, the film delves into the dissonance experienced by Rudolf Höss, the longest-serving commandant of Auschwitz, and his seemingly idyllic life beside the concentration camp. However, I found the execution of the film lacking the eerie atmosphere that made Glazer’s “Under the Skin” so captivating. The explicit depiction of the dissonance felt forced, failing to evoke the desired effect.

What struck me most about “The Zone of Interest” were the scenes that conveyed the unspoken, the silence that lingered alongside spoken words. One such scene involved Höss informing his wife about their impending move from their home next to Auschwitz. As she reacts with anger and disappointment, the word “lebensraum” echoes, connecting their existence to Hitler’s ideology of colonizing and destroying others. The Höss family embodies the belief that personal gain arises from denying others the same opportunities—a reflection of the same mentality inherent in wealth.

While Glazer claims his film is not solely about the past, there are distinct differences in how present-day events unfold. The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict serves as a prime example. The accessibility of real-time information online exposes the immediate rationalizations and confirmation biases that arise in the face of conflict. It becomes a case study in cognitive dissonance, unfolding before our eyes. Yet, what stands out even more in today’s society is the unsettling harmony that coexists with dissonance. Gilroy’s observation that people know the right thing to do but do the opposite is worth questioning. Not everyone possesses that knowledge.

Hannah Arendt once wrote, “Under conditions of terror, most people will comply, but some people will not.” This idea becomes apparent when examining the actions of individuals like Höss and Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi official whose trial Arendt covered. Perhaps they never truly experienced cognitive dissonance. The ordinary people who played a role in the atrocities, however, faced a different challenge. They succumbed to the human desire to conform, the fear of appearing weak, and the ability to separate tasks, effectively avoiding the contradiction between their actions and their moral compass.

Understanding the cognitive harmony explored in “The Zone of Interest” is a crucial step in confronting this paradoxical human impulse. Demonizing it may not lead to transcending it, but acknowledging it and scrutinizing its consequences can. By facing the darkness head-on, we have the opportunity to change the course of our actions and strive for a more compassionate future.

In conclusion, the dissonance between what we know is right and what we do is becoming increasingly deafening in today’s society. Tony Gilroy’s insights, along with Jonathan Glazer’s film “The Zone of Interest,” shed light on the complexities of human behavior and the dangers of cognitive harmony. It is through the examination of these contradictions that we can begin to pave the way for a more empathetic and just world.