DVD Review: The Zoo Keeper’s Wife
The Zoo Keeper’s Wife is the true story of Antonina Żabińska (Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh), who are the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo. But when Germany invades and the zoo is bombed, they are convinced by one time acquaintance and now Hitler’s chief zoologist, Dr. Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl) that he can protect the prized animals of the collection if they will loan them to the Berlin Zoo. Leaving them with a scattering of common animals Lutz does not return until winter when he arrived to shoot the remaining animals because they won’t survive the winter. But this is no compassionate visit, Lutz has changed and seems to take delight in the killing of the animals.
The zoo with no animals is now set to close but the keepers come up with an idea to keep the zoo under their control, by breeding pigs to feed the German troops.
At the same time, seeing how their Jewish friends and neighbours are being treated and figuring out what will happen to them, Antonina and Jan hook up with the resistance and decide to use the zoo turned pig farm as a safe house for Jews to be smuggled out of Warsaw. By the end of the war, the couple manage to rescue 300 Jews, with only two being found out and shot.
The film only strays away from authenticity (according to wikipedia) when Antonia has to succumb to Lutz’s not too subtle advances. This is used to create tension and to overly exaggerate the evil nature of Lutz.
As far as Holocaust dramas go, The Zoo Keeper’s Wife keeps everything pretty much sterile, there is emotion, but this comes more from knowing enough about the Holocaust to add one and one together. The story is probably a little santised, in fact by the end of the film you think they’ve only rescued about a dozen or so, a quick internet fact checking mission was needed to realise the magnitude of their bravery.
But any film that reminds us of the Holocaust and the depravity of Nazism is worth while taking a look at, especially one that easily engages you and gets you looking up details on the internet afterwards.
Rating: M Violence.