CITY PRESS REVIEWS: The Zookeeper's Wife

2017-04-02 06:02
Jessica Chastain

Johannesburg - An act of courage is doing what is right in spite of terrible fear. What the Zabinski family did in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation is the stuff of legendary bravery – the kind we all hope we have within us when the test comes. This film is based on Diane Ackerman’s book, The Zookeeper’s Wife, which, in turn, is based on the diary kept by Antonina Zabinski.

Jessica Chastain lends her Oscar-nominated star power to this multinational film. New Zealand director Niki Caro, who made the unforgettable Whale Rider, explores how righteous human beings can transcend the most vile of man-made evil. Belgian actor Johan Heldenbergh is Jan Zabinski, who was the director of the Warsaw Zoo and, during the Nazi occupation, looked after the city parks, which is how he gained access to the notorious ghetto and how he came to smuggle Jewish people out to save them.

Watch the trailer for the movie here:

Daniel Brühl, the German actor who made his mark with Good Bye Lenin!, is Lutz Heck. Heck was infamous for looting the Warsaw zoo of the best animals and sending them to Germany and for trying to “resurrect” extinct animals through selective breeding programmes. Poor Brühl, this is the second awful Nazi he’s played in a year (he was also the nasty Nazi in Alone in Berlin).

Antonina must charm Heck to keep his guard down as she, her husband and her son ferry Jews through their home, using the emptied animal cages to hide and house the 300 people they saved.

Chastain holds the film together, and the character of Antonina shines through, both as a humanist and as an animal lover. The poignant opening scenes, preoccupation, of her and her husband lovingly caring for their animals (though animal lovers of today might find the too-small cages and taming of the animals out of step) are in stark contrast to the bloodshed brought by the Nazis to animals and people alike.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is a powerful and universal story of courage that will restore your faith in people, something that we all need regularly.

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