The Zookeeper's Wife

(2017)

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Title:
The Zookeeper's Wife
Release Date:
31st March 2017
Runtime:
126 min
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Genres:
Directors:
Niki Caro
Writers:
Angela Workman, Diane Ackerman
Languages:
English
Stream Quality:
1080p / 720p / 480p

Storyline

The Zookeeper's Wife tells the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion.

Ratings

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 55%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience 0%
IMDb Rating 7.6

Casts

Daniel Bruhl as Lutz Heck
Efrat Dor as Magda Gross
Jessica Chastain as Antonina Zabinski
Johan Heldenbergh as Jan Zabinski
Timothy Radford as Ryszard Zabinski (Younger)

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by rannynm 24th March, 2017

Shows how even in the worst of times, some people are kind-hearted beyond belief

This film is truly incredible because it shows how kind-hearted people are. Given that the movie takes place in Poland during World War II, there is a lot of tension among the Jewish and German residents because the Jewish Holocaust is occurring. But, the main characters, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, still manage to take care of their zoo and try to keep the animals safe. In the midst of World War II, Adolf Hitler's power permeates in Poland, specifically in the Warsaw ghetto, where there are many Jewish inhabitants. Living in Warsaw is Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain), her husband Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh) and their son. They are in charge of the Warsaw Zoo, where any animal you can imagine lives. Bombs are hitting the Warsaw Zoo, killing many of the animals. The zoo is almost completely destroyed, and the Zabinski's decide to use it as a Jewish sanctuary. Jessica Chastain's portrayal of Antonina is quite believable. Antonina is a beautiful woman who loves animals more than she loves herself and she does her best to ensure that everything goes as planned. Johan Heldenbergh, who plays Jan, is very brave. He acts as an assistant to a German soldier and looks for creative ways to transport the Jews to safety. They put their lives on the line to save others, which truly is remarkable. The Warsaw Zoo looks astonishing. It is huge! There are so many beautiful trees, and there are animals walking around with Antonina. I want to now have my own zoo someday! My favorite part of the movie is when Antonina is riding her bicycle and she calls her camel to walk alongside her. This camel is hilarious because he makes strange noises and he hops so quickly. He acts as a police patrol for the zoo, which I think is extremely funny. The message of this film is to help others. Antonina and Jan Zabinski try to help hundreds of Jews stay safe and do not put themselves first. Antonina and Jan live in imminent danger themselves and all they can focus on is making a difference, which I admire greatly. I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars. It is so inspiring and there are animals in it, for which I have a great soft spot. Given that there are many casualties among animals and people, I recommend this film to ages 18 to adult. This film is not afraid to depict historical reality, so it may be difficult to watch some scenes, but this movie is now one of my favorites. Watch this film if you enjoy history and films that are based on true stories. It comes out on March 31, 2017 in theaters so, make sure to keep your eyes open for it. It is a movie you certainly don't want to miss. Reviewed by Samantha M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.

Reviewed by moviexclusive 19th March, 2017

Told with grace, empathy and conviction, this celebration of ordinary heroism is elevated by strong performances by Jessica Chastain and her Belgian co-lead Johan Heldenbergh

Based on the non-fiction book of the same name, 'The Zookeeper's Wife' recounts the true story of the husband-and-wife couple, Jan and Antonina Zabinski, who secretly sheltered Jews during the German invasion of Poland from 1939 to 1945 on their premises of the Warsaw Zoo, thus enabling these Polish Jews to escape from the infamous Warsaw Ghetto and the eventual extermination of the place as well as its inhabitants within. At its heart, this is a celebration of ordinary heroes – that is, of ordinary men and women who have displayed extraordinary heroism during extraordinary times. Such tales are often told with sycophantic adulation, which runs counter to the nature of their character/s and ultimately leaves one feeling patronized. Thankfully, its director Niki Caro knows her way around such celebrations of heroism (as evinced by her previous works like 'Whale Rider', 'North Country' and 'McFarland, USA'), placing emphasis on the difficult circumstances of the war in order to demonstrate the Zabinskis' bravery rather than on exalting the characters per se. Scenes of life pre- and post-invasion, of life behind the ghettos and of the nail-biting process of sneaking the Jews out of the ghettos are played out with attention to detail and realism, just so the context under which the Zabinskis were living under as well as the danger they were putting themselves and their only son Ryszard under are felt keenly and profoundly – hence illuminating the spirit of valour and self-sacrifice their deeds exemplified. Those who have read Diane Ackerman's source novel will probably know that her narration is as much about Jan and Antonina Zabinski as it is about Lutz Heck, the duplicitous head of the Berlin Zoo whom the Zabinskis first meet before the war and who eventually turns out to be one of the prominent figures of the German war office in Poland. Like in the book, Lutz aimed to recreate pureblood versions of certain extinct species; and for dramatic impact, instead of transporting some of the cattle from the Warsaw Zoo to run his animal eugenics programme back in Berlin, Lutz (as played by Daniel Bruhl) does so right on the grounds of the former. That deviation allows screenwriter Angela Workman to fashion a rather unnecessary subplot between Antonina and Lutz, which sees Lutz develop a personal liking for Antonina and concomitantly engendering marital tension between Jan and Antonina. As distracting as that may be, it is consoling that neither Lutz nor the Germans in particular are demonized; in fact, the former's on screen representation shows an unexpectedly benevolent side at the end that may in fact be kinder than his real-life person. In turn, the horrors of the Holocaust are depicted through a fictional character which Caro has said was her idea. Played by Israeli actress Shira Haas, Urszula is a barely teenage girl whom Jan encounters on his maiden trip into the ghetto bleeding and shaken after being raped by two German male soldiers. Against better judgment, Jan conceals her right under the driver's seat of his truck (under his son's feet, no less) in order to help her escape from any further misery. Though manipulative, Urszula's addition is arguably an effective device through which Caro conveys the magnitude of the Zabinskis' rescue efforts – not only is she intended to be emblematic of the suffering and subsequent trauma that the Jewish children no doubt endured during the German invasion, she is the face of the persecuted Jewish, personifying the 'human' in humanity. Her recovery is also representative of the hope that the Zabinskis' act of wartime courage gave to the 300 Jews that they saved in the six years of the German occupation. As with such historical dramatisations, the strength of the performances determines whether the film itself ends up being compelling – and sure enough, that 'The Zookeeper's Wife' is fascinating to watch from start to finish is testament to the strong cast. However cynical you may be of Jessica Chastain's casting as Antonina which therefore requires the Hollywood actress to put on a Polish accent, she is undeniably captivating as the eponymous lead, channeling grit and vulnerability in equal measure as she fleshes out her character's fears, anxieties and convictions. Her stripped- down performance complements that of Belgian actor Johan Heldenbergh, who may not have matinee-idol looks but certainly the gravitas to play a resolute volunteer for the underground Polish resistance. Among the supporting actors, Bruhl and Haas are the standouts, the former exercising admirable restraint in what could have been a traditionally villainous act while the latter surprisingly nuanced in her portrayal of the most visible victim of Nazi sadism. Many a story has been told of ordinary men and women who have displayed extraordinary heroism during the Holocaust, and 'The Zookeeper's Wife' stands out among one of the better ones by simply telling its story well without embellishment or worse exaggeration. Even better, it underscores the emotional devastation of war without violence or gore; rather, with emphasis on authenticity, the film lays bare the communities torn apart when the Germans invaded, the sheer hopelessness of those who were oppressed, and the sacrifices that one must sometimes make in order to achieve a loftier, nobler purpose during such challenging times. Especially when some world leaders seem to have forgotten the importance of world peace, this is as apt a reminder as any that the cost of war is immeasurable, immutable and perhaps even irreversible.