The actions taken behind closed doors that are not on display for the public defines the character of a person, all of which is highlighted in the new film, “The Zookeeper’s Wife.”
The movie tells the story of the Warsaw Zoo's animal keeper, Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh), and his wife, Antonia (Jessica Chastain). The Zabinski’s are passionate about their work and have gathered a large collection of animals from around the globe for the public to enjoy. Things change when the German Army invades Poland and enters the City of Warsaw. These actions bring the war to the doorstep of the Zabinskis, as the Germans shut down the zoo and use it as an armory.
The Germans then start rounding up members of the Jewish community and placing them inside single section of the city known as the Warsaw Ghetto. A wall topped with barbed wire and soldiers patrolling the streets close off the ghetto.
So, the Zabinskis are faced with a choice of whether to do nothing and allow history to run its course or to act and have their lives, the lives of their family and friends placed in danger. They choose to act to save lives of their fellow neighbors.
"The Zookeeper’s Wife" connects the audience with the human element of this tragic time. This connection helps to makes the Holocaust and Nazi persecution of millions more than just facts in a textbook. It tugs at the heartstrings, makes the war feel real and tangible and, at times, some scenes made me cry.
Needless to say, the emotion shown it this film is very powerful.
One such movement that connected with me Antonia is talking with a Jewish girl that has been brought back to the zoo to be hidden. The girl — who was sexual assaulted — is frightened and curled up in a corner. Antonia is talking with her to let her know she has a friend. She has a rabbit with her and tells the girl why she likes animals so much.
Antonia says, “You can never tell who your enemies are or who trust. Maybe that’s why I love animals so much. You look in their eyes and you know what exactly what’s in their hearts.”
"The Zookeeper's Wife" also illustrated the danger they faced as they worked to save the lives of their neighbors. A scene that shows the risks the Zabinskis’ faced is when Jan is taking Jewish people out of the ghetto under the pretext to be used as laborers in his zoo. Jan goes through the labor board set up by the Germans to save people.
As Jan is approaching the main gate, a guard confronts him. Jan has to muster up his courage and bluff his way out of the situation before some else suspects something. At this moment you can see fear mixed with determination in Jan’s eyes as he shouts to the guard.
Before going to see this movie, a reader posed two questions to me — "Why does there need to be another movie made about World War II? Aren’t there enough already?"
Those questions stuck with me during the week leading up to seeing this film.
It is true, there have been many movies made about World War II and the Holocaust. However, not everyone’s story has been told.
Each story has value. Those stories need to be brought to the light and told so the next generation so history can be learned from and not repeated.
I would also say a story like this helps to keep the memories of people alive who were killed or sacrificed so much to save others in the forefront of today’s world. These acts of bravery and courage are examples that need to be remembered.
This film is one that needs to be seen and it has a compelling story to tell its audience. The only drawback to the movie is that it is a limited release. However, don’t let that fact deter you from going to see this film.
It is worth the drive.
I give “The Zookeeper’s Wife” five out of five mustaches.
The only two theaters that “The Zookeeper’s Wife” is playing at in the area are the AMC Theater at the Parks Mall located at 3811 S. Cooper St. in Arlington and the Angelika Film Center located at 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane in Dallas.
This film is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, violence, brief sexuality, nudity and smoking. It runs 124 minutes.
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