The unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust continue to be the topic of films decades after the event took place. However despite its age as an event in history, many stories of courage in such a frightening time continue to come to light, making for some of the best films. It is also a constant reminder to society of the horrors that took place, and that anything remotely close to it must never happen again. The Zookeeper’s Wife is the latest of these films, providing us with yet another exceptional story of bravery in the face of such adversity.
The film the incredible true story of Antonina and Dr. Jan Zabinski (Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh) who run the Warsaw Zoo as the Germans slowly begin to take over the city. The couple carries on with their daily lives as the owners of the zoo, until the morning of September 1, 1939 when German forces storm the Polish capital. With most of the animals either dead from the attack or roaming the streets of Warsaw, and the Nazi’s liquidation of the zoo for the war efforts, Antonia and Jan create a plan to hide the polish Jews within the zoo until safe houses are found for them. Despite the dangers they faced, Antonia and Jan managed to shelter 300 Jews, right under the Nazi’s noses.
I always say that movies based on true stories make for the best films. There’s just something about watching the story unfold before your eyes and that gentle reminder in the back of your mind, “Wow, this actually happened to someone”. The movie is one of those stories that completely captivates an audience. It is thought provoking, edge of your seat thrilling at times, and of course emotional. If seeing a zoo bombed doesn’t make you cry or at least tear up, you are a heartless individual. At some moments the film tends to lag in its story, but it’s really nothing to completely ruin the overall experience.
Despite the story being about how Jan and Antonina saved the Warsaw Jews, the film really highlights Antonina as the primary driving force behind the operation. Jessica Chastain is riveting as Antonina Zabinski, a true heroin in the face of evil as she risked her life to save polish Jews. In today’s climate, this film could not come at a more opportune time, portraying such a strong, independent woman who stood up for what she believed in despite the perilous cost. The Zookeeper’s Wife is not only a reminder of what to prevent, but also a reminder of who to become.