“The Zookeepers Wife” – 9
In a word: Intense
First thing potential viewers need to know, this is a WWII story based on true events based in Warsaw, Poland, at the beginning of the war. It’s theme is much like Schindler’s List, which spiraled Oscar Schindler into a hero of sorts for saving the lives of hundreds of people from Nazi bullets, torture and ovens. The characters of Antonina and Jan Zabinski, zookeepers at the Warsaw Zoo, are deftly played by Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh who also had saved hundreds of lives by hiding Jews in zoo basements over a five year period. Because it’s a true story, we are even more engrossed.
Complete with Polish accent, Jessica Chastain plays the role of her life, worthy of an Oscar if only this movie was released in November, not April. Before the Nazi invasion on September 1st, 1939, life was good for the zookeepers. Chastain is portrayed with a number of otherwise wild animals that are her extended family, loving and caressing elephants, lions, camels and so much more. Then came the invasion of Hitler’s army which changed lives of millions.
Scenes portrayed in the Warsaw ghetto were as realistic as any other movie in the same era. The film has all the elements of similarly made movies; fear, passion, panic, displacement, murder and hatred. We also learn that this gifted actress is an accomplished pianist.
As the movie progresses into war’s end in 1945, it would be impossible for a viewer not to choke up when powerful emotions explode among the characters. If you’re sick and tired of profanity and sex, you’re in luck with this picture. I don’t recall the “F” word spoken once, nor were there any explicit sex scenes.
Much of the dialogue is exchanged in whisper mode, which is tough to hear for most anyone, especially older folks. In a movie theater, if you miss the words, you can’t rewind.
All in all, this was another powerful story about the holocaust, this time from the perspective of a woman whose job it was to love animals. The acting; Superb.
I give this a 9 out of 10.