Friday, April 28, 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife is a sobering true story of WWII drama and heart

Movie Title:  The Zookeeper's Wife

Grade: A-

Rating: PG-13, although I would give this movie an R rating due to its grim nature and two glimpses of a topless woman.  
126 minutes long

In a Nutshell:  This sobering film is based on the true story that unfolded in Poland during World War II.  It’s an adaptation of Diane Ackerman’s bestseller The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story and does a very good job illustrating different kinds of cages: for animals, Jews in the Ghetto and on trains headed to concentration camps, small-minded Nazis imprisoned by Hitler’s terror, and more.   

Uplifting theme: 
  • Heroism, sacrifice, friendship
  • Humanity
  • We will never know all of the stories of the many brave men and women who risked so much to save others during “the war to end all wars.”

Things I liked:
  • Jessica Chastain did an excellent job as Antonina Zabinska.  Her emotional performance made me cry several times.  I loved seeing her with the animals and she seemed to genuinely care for them. Oscar-worthy?  Should be.
  • How they managed the animals in the zoo is truly impressive.  How did they get the animals to do all those things they did?  You get to see people cuddle with skunks, lion cubs, elephants, a symbolic bunny (aww), and more.  I loved the little camel that ran freely around the zoo.  All of the animals were real; there was no CGI used!
  • The film does a very good job demonstrating the cruelty of Hitler and his Nazis.  They destroyed soooo much that was good in this world.
  • Belgium Daniel Bruhl is slickly evil, but even still not quite as menacing as he could be. He has too likable of a face.  Jessica Chastain said that he taught her how to swear in German during their breaks.
  • Before the credits roll, the screen displays text where you can read about what happened after the last scene, including the good news (SPOILER ALERT) that the Zabinska’s zoo has survived as the Warsaw Zoo.  Although the film is about Warsaw, it was filmed entirely in Prague!
  • Critics complain that the movie isn’t realistic enough, as in….they want it to be more gruesome and bloody?  I thought it had so much gore and violence that it should have been rated R.  Besides, we REALLY don’t have to see people’s heads get blown off in every disgusting detail to know what’s happening and be affected by it.  Sometimes we see the gore and brutality in this film, but sometimes we just hear gun shots and the horror is implied.  Both were equally effective, making the audience I sat with groan, jump, and gasp every time.
  • It was clever and symbolic that a piano was used to give both comfort and warning to the Jews hiding in the zoo.
  • SPOILER ALERT: I thought the scene where the children innocently trusted Jan to lift them up into the train was powerful and heartbreaking.
  • It made me think of the many refugees that are in the world today.  If you would like to find out how you can help, check out JustServe.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Critics don’t seem to like this movie very much, but I’ve noticed that most of those who don’t are men.  Just sayin... Everyone in the audience I sat with seemed to be really touched, based on the crying and sniffling I heard around me in the dark theater.
  • It’s not on par with the epic Schindler's List, but I appreciated the perspective from a woman’s lived experience in this story.
  • There was no humor to break up the tension.  It was 100% drama. 80% tension.  One of the best WWII/Holocaust movies I've ever seen and one that was able to mix humor with incredible drama was Life Is Beautiful  It still haunts me.

Interesting lines:

  • “Maybe that’s why I love animals so much.  You look in their eyes and you know exactly what’s in their hearts.  They’re not like people.” – Antonina
  • “A human zoo.” – Antonina
  • “Whatever we do, we have to hide it in plain sight.” – Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh)
  • “You are a wonder.  You are Eve in the garden.” – Jan
  • “People always want to run when they don’t know what’s coming.” - Antonina

Tips for parents: 
  • Both animals and people are slaughtered in this movie.  In other words, this is NOT a family-friendly movie.  It is powerful and only appropriate for older teens.
  • You see dead, bloody animal carcasses.
  • You see a bloodied, stunned girl after she has been raped and you see another man attempt to rape a woman.  There is also a passionate scene in bed, although clothes are on.
  • You see some animals mating while Nazis cheer on.
  • There is a lot of violence and suffering.


Post a Comment