The Zookeeper’s Wife tells the story of the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion.
The first thing I remember hearing about this film was an interview with ‘the zookeeper’s wife’ Jessica Chastain where she talked about how great it was to work with a female writer and director. The next thought I had was that I just had to see this film not only because it starred Jessica Chastain and Daniel Brühl (both of whom I love as actors) and talked about another portion of the Second World War that wasn’t entirely based in Germany, England, France, Pearl Harbour, Japan, or the Asia/Pacific region (though this region is still significantly less talked about) but because it had female figures in significant production roles such as the writer and director.
What made this film so great, despite the mixed reviews, is the strength of charity and compassion against brutality, which is something that we continue to experience in one form of another to this day. Though, in The Zookeeper’s Wife exploring this, the film reminds us of the many war drama’s we may have seen before and what’s obvious about the film is that what you see is what you get — the metaphor’s used are obviously clear and there’s nothing hidden for the audience to figure out for themselves.
What also put the film a little…off was the strange and seemingly contrived relationship between Chastain’s Antonina Zabinski and Brühl’s Lutz Heck, despite how historically accurate it may have been. How it was approached in the film form as we see it was a little strange and could’ve been approached in a different way.
I think the main reason why many who have spent their time and money on seeing this and felt something against it can be narrowed down to the on screen violence towards the animals of the zoo. It’s no denying the fact that it was extreme, and films can be a lot more powerful if the anguish towards other’s is only implied, much like was done with the rape of a young girl in the film. What was done to the animals was a disturbing sight that I will no doubt be able to unsee and was an unnecessary part of the film.
None of this shouldn’t discredit The Zookeeper’s Wife, however, as it proves to be a standout film on its own.