Jonathan Glazer’s approach to the Holocaust is a terrifying exercise in cinematic minimalism. Although I haven’t read it, it seems that he has taken Martin Amis’s novel about Auschwitz CEO Rudolph Höss, stripped it off almost everything resembling a plot, and then shot it with fly-on-the-wall cameras. The result is very much a one-trick film – but it’s one hell of a good trick. As we watch the bourgeois 1940s German family playing with their kids, entertaining friends and relatives, tending the garden, splashing in the pool, the soundtrack never ceases to be filled with the ghastly sounds of the final solution emanating from the camp next door to their middle-class paradise.

Although the goings-on at the death camps are rarely evoked in dialogue, this is not a tale of people blithely looking the other way. They know exactly what is happening, it just isn’t relevant to their day-to-day interests. Yes, the presence of human remains near where his children are playing is enough for an underling to earn a telling-off from Höss, but otherwise the tragedy and brutal evil of the Nazi purge happens in the corners and off-screen.

There’s an element of absurdity in the way that the family refuse to acknowledge the sounds and sights of death and terror right on their doorstep – almost like something out of The Bed Sitting Room or Synecdoche, New York – until you remember that all of this was real, that Auschwitz happened and that the Höss family were real people. That isn’t to say there’s no artistic licence here. The real Auschwitz was a little further away from the Höss garden, I understand, so the absurdity is partly Glazer’s doing, but this is a matter of degree more than anything else.

Something barely resembling a story crops up after about an hour when Höss is transferred and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller from Anatomy of a Fall) refuses to uproot herself and her children, but otherwise this is all Glazer’s Kubrickian detachments from the unholy terrors happening at the edges, with Łukasz Żal’s cinematography giving the sunny days an overlit, almost nuclear, whiteness, and the winter months a cool blue blanket.

Rating this film is something of a struggle for me. I don’t want to see it again, I note the excellent performances, and admire the rigour of the form, but I felt overwhelmed by it, rather than drawn in. That may be what Glazer intended, but it doesn’t make this a film I’m likely to recommend to friends and family. And I felt that restraint slip in the phone call where Höss talks to Hedwig about (theoretically) how to gas a ballroom of partygoers.