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Film Review: How 'The Zookeeper's Wife' Outsmarted Hitler's Regime

by Todd A. Smith

 

(Photo Credit: Focus Features)

 

 

Unlikely Heroes 

 


World War II and Adolf Hitler’s murderous Nazi regime ruined the lives of people from various backgrounds, including the Jewish community.


German soldiers not only attempted to exterminate the entire Jewish community, they also attempted to take over significant portions of the European continent.


In 1939, life was grand for Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain), the zookeeper’s wife, and her husband Jan (Johan Heldenbergh).


Along with their young son, Ryszard (Timothy Radford), the Zabinskis actually live on the zoo grounds, surrounded by some of the most exquisite animals Mother Nature ever created.


Their property is constantly filled with lovely guests, and their house is home to some lovely creatures.


As zookeepers, the Zabinskis also have the privilege of befriending zookeepers from throughout the European continent, including Germany.


Although the Zabinskis relationship with all of their colleagues has always been cordial, Hitler’s romp throughout Europe begins to threaten their relationship with German zookeeper, Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl).


Having the foresight to know what is coming from the Nazis, Jan begs Antonina to take Ryszard out of Poland, but Antonina is reluctant because school is starting soon.


However, when Antonina finally realizes the severity of the German occupation of Poland, it is too late to get out.


The German army takes over the Zabinskis’ zoo, kills many of the animals, seizes the rest and uses the zoo grounds to house their soldiers and their equipment.


Although the non-Jewish community is relatively safe from the evils of Hitler, the Zabinskis still have to look on in horror as their Jewish friends fear for their lives.


In “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” the Zabinskis house a Jewish couple, but still feel awful that there are thousands of Jews who cannot benefit from their hospitality.


The Polish couple devises a plan to hide Jewish residents in plain site on the zoo grounds.


In “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” much of the Polish zoo is used by the German military, but some of it is still vacant.


The Zabinskis convince Lutz, who has a fascination, with Antonina, to let them use the remaining parts of the zoo as a pig farm.


In order to feed the pigs, the Zabinskis convince Lutz that they can use trash from the ghetto where the Jews are housed.


While Jan brings back trash for the pigs, he also hides Jewish prisoners under the trash.


They hide the escaped Jews at their home, using the piano to instruct the Jews on whether to come out or stay in their hiding place.


“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is an admirable film on the horrors inflicted on people by other people much in the same vein as “The Diary of Anne Frank.”


Chastain delivers a first-rate performance.  But the most intense performance comes from a raped Jewish girl who barely mumbles a word.


The fear on her face is excruciating and her emotions can be felt through the movie screen.


“The Zookeeper’s Wife” can be criticized for its similarities to “The Diary of Anne Frank.”


However, the similarities just prove there were multiple heroes during World War II with similar stories of survival, selflessness and heroism.


Although Hitler’s aim was to destroy a group of people, he ultimately destroyed himself and made heroes out of some of his supposed victims.



REGAL RATINGS

FOUR CROWNS=EXCELLENT

THREE CROWNS=GOOD

TWO CROWNS=AVERAGE

ONE CROWN=POOR

 

This article was published on Friday 31 March, 2017.
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