Movie / Culture

The Bittersweet Zookeeper´s Wife

The owners of the zoo, who during the Second World War saved more than 300 Jews are the heroes of the true story transformed into a film adaptation. The Zookeeper´s Wife, a movie of New Zealand director Niki Caro, has all the prerequisites of the movie of the year: great cast, special environment and war theme portrayed differently than seen in the most of the war movies. As strong as the story is and the movie is full of incredibly impressive scenes, the movie is mixed with unnecessary literalism and dialogues, that unfortunately make the movie somehow average.

The story is told by Jessica Chastain in a role of Antonina Zabinská, the co-owner of the Warsaw zoo, who along with her husband could no longer overlook the injustices of war. As a part of the courageous anti-war plan they made use of their truck, that was used to transport the leftovers for the animals from the ghetto. However, besides food they also used it to transport the desperate exiles from the ghetto, whom they hide in the area under the zoo. The movie is set in a Polish ghetto and one of the first things that hurt the viewer is extremely played Polish accent, on which Jessica Chastain put a great job. Next to some European actors such as Daniel Brühl speaking fluent German, her playing is almost pathetic. The blame might be put on somewhat overly sweet scenes in the beginning of the movie, where Antonina is portrayed in all her kindness, ridind a bike in a cute dress, feeding the hippo, talking to a camel and showing she is not afraid to save a life of a baby elephant. Characters of the married couple are fortunately realistic, mainly thanks to a moral dilemma they deal with; yet often dropped down by literal dialogues, such as the one where Jan lenghtily explains his wife the plan of the tunels and shelters, even with an explicit and decent metaphor of „human zoo.“ The most impressive are thus the no-dialogue scenes – schocking scenes from the ghetto or obviously brutal differences between the social classes of the former Warsaw. The tense situation is supported by the constantly present Nazi chieftain (played by Daniel Brühl) or by the excellent music of Harry Gregson-Williams (Kingdom of Heaven, The Chronicles of Narnia). However, The Zookeeper´s Wife is indisputably a movie worth seeing, and a story worth listening.

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