Starring: Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Daniel Bruhl
Director: Niki Caro
Based on a true story, adapted from the book by Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife is the story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, who were the zookeepers of the Warsaw Zoo in 1939 when war broke out. As the Germans invade, they can do nothing as the Nazi’s invade and viciously and pointlessly kill the animals that the Zabinski’s love so much.
This pointless violence and cruelty inspire the family to hide Jewish people who are targeted by the Nazi party, and they try to give them safety and get them out of danger.
Chastain stars as the beautiful and gentle Antonina, who is the focus of the tale. As her husband hides and is often away she protects her animals and her children, particularly against the creepy Nazi officer Lutz Heck (Bruhl), who has crazy ideas about experimental animal breeding programs that will bring back mythical ancients creatures for the glory of the Reich.
Any story about the Nazi regime and the systematic killing of the Jewish people is incredibly tragic and sad, and this film has a wonderful way of showing how terrifying it was to live through those events, as well as the small inspiring acts of heroism that people undertook when they could, to save friends and neighbours. Beautifully shot, and focusing on the fragility and quiet strength of Antonina, it’s a moving true story about humanity under fire. There is hope gently scattered throughout this film, and though it’s about the Nazi occupation, it’s often beautiful too. A remarkable and scary story of real life, and what we’re capable of when we’re brave and have compassion, it’s a little long winded, but ultimately rewarding.
See It If: another Chastain triumph, this is a beautifully realised war time true story, but animal lovers be warned, this is a hard watch.