Tuesday, April 4, 2017
TINSEL & TINE SPOTLIGHTS:
THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE
The Zookeeper's Wife is female director Niki Caro’s first studio vehicle. The film takes us into the Nazi invasion of Poland seen through the eyes of true life heroes Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) and Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain) who ran the illustrious Warsaw Zoo in Poland. After the Nazis began rounding up the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, the Zabinski's started secretly using their zoo, turned pig farm, and their home, as a refuge for many trying to escape being sent to concentration camps during World War II. Most of the movie is based on Antonina’s diary which informed Diane Ackerman’s best-selling non-fiction novel of the same name.
Daniel Brühl plays Lutz Heck, zoologist from Berlin who is at first a colleague and friendly acquaintance to the couple, and then turns Nazi enemy - sorta like Rolfe in the Sound of Music (See T&T posts The 5th Estate and Rush both featuring Brühl).
Every time a movie like this comes out, I think Oh boy, another Holocaust movie. I feel the same way about a Slave Narratives. But then, inevitably the filmmaker finds a way to once again awaken you to the horrors of these inhumane atrocities in a new way. And to celebrate those that risked their lives and those that had enough spirit to survive; and so, whether it be Jews or Africans, you’re pulled into the story.
The bombs hit the Zoo hard (they don’t show this in the movie, but I read the Zoo was badly bombed because it was in close proximity to a Polish anti-aircraft artillery (battery). I’m not usually a bleeding heart for animals, I appreciate and respect them as God’s creatures, but I don't think about animals all that much. So, I was surprised that I kinda yelled out in the theater, when many of them died as a result of the bombing and then others were killed because they couldn’t re-cage them, and then later, the few that were tame and just living in the zoo freely, were shot by the soldiers for sport. It really got to me.
Bottom Line: The high stakes life or death tension of everyone, those in hiding and those doing the hiding is played well throughout the movie. My only problem was the casting of Chastain. I'm normally a fan (see T&T post on Miss Sloane) but because all the other roles are filled with Eastern European or European actors, she as an American, with her coached accent, kinda sticks out like a sore thumb. I know they had to have one brand name actor to get the movie made, but the film would have been better served with an unknown less glamorous woman in the role.
T & T's LAMB (movie bloggers association) Score: 3 outta 5
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