THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE takes a stand in 1930’s Poland
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…we really need to stop with the barrage of WWII Jewish/Nazi stories and the slavery stories. There’s a point (about 50 movies ago) where it just feels sensationalized for the sake of being interesting. World War II was horrific and still affects many people today. We should learn about it, educate future generations about it, hear the survivors tell their stories and discuss it. It’s the movies that are out of control, especially when that’s pretty much the only depiction of Jewish people we see in American media. Now that said, The Zookeeper’s Wife is a solid film. My personal feelings regarding this non-Jewish savior trope aside, the film, based on the novel with the same name, was well done and does a good job of not relying on gore for shock value.
Antonina (Jessica Chastain) and her husband Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh) along with their young son, own and run the Warsaw Zoo. Antonina acts as a caregiver, one who deeply loves all of the animals. Their zoo is quite popular amongst higher social classes at night and the general public during the day. Things are already starting to change with bombs going off when Dr. Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl) arrives as Hitler’s zoologist, he states that they’ve come to collect Warsaw Zoo’s prize animals (very Noah’s ark). He says this under the guise that they can keep them safe, and they’re going to be doing some experiments for the good of science.
As you can imagine, anyone working for Hitler is evil and not to be trusted and even the Żabiński’s sensed something was off with Heck. The remaining animals… well that’s when we realize how truly wicked he is. The “good” thing that comes out of the animals no longer occupying the cages is that the Żabiński’s are able to hide Jews in and around their compound, while the Nazis were pretty much guarding the place. This is based on a true story, so this is all just short of a miracle. It is said that she and her husband saved around 300 Polish Jews in total. Truly phenomenal. The performances were solid and certain scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat. The film overall was good. I implore everyone to read up on this tremendous couple as well as how they’ve been honored throughout the years. I think this film does the story honor.