I`ve had the chance to see quite a few films this year that have followed the route of telling a story based on a true one. We`ve had films this year that have told true stories such as Hacksaw Ridge and Hidden Figures to name a few, and I`ve had the chance today to check out another film. Today`s agenda would take me to World War 2, and Poland, as I was about to be told another true story based during the War. Any film that is a true reflection during the War is always an emotional and gripping tale, and The Zookeeper`s Wife, was about to be no different. Starring Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh in the two lead roles, I was about to be told, a true gripping story.
A Zookeeper`s Wife is set during World War 2 and Warsaw, Poland and tells the story of Zookeeper Jan Zabinski (Heldenbergh) and his wife, Antonina (Chastain) who look after the Zoo in Warsaw. After bombings destroy a lot of their livestock and the war begins, they start to smuggle Jewish people out of the Jewish ghetto (Which had been segregated during WW2 to keep the Jews away from the non-Jews) and keep them hidden in their basement and house, keeping them hidden during the day while German soldiers patrol the area, and out at night when they`re free to come out without a possible sighting. Antonina is left on her won with her children later in the film as Jan goes off to fight in the Warsaw Uprising, and later after the war has been surrendered, they re-unite and start to rebuild the Zoo, and the Zoo that still stands today, under the name of Warsaw Zoo.
I love these films. Films that are a true reflection of a story or a historical moment that occurred. Every film that I`ve seen this year that has followed that route has been superb, and I have to say, The Zookeeper`s Wife follows that trend with a great telling. Jessica Chastain is superb in the lead role of Antonina, and plays the part with conviction and someone who was pretty easy to see a personality too. Too many films I`ve seen where I`ve thought a character has come across as pretty one dimensional, or pretty narrow, but that isn’t the case with Chastain`s character. We see a good range of emotion throughout the film and she plays the part perfectly well. Another character that really stood out for me was the character of Lutz Heck, played by Daniel Bruhl, who was the chief German patrol in the zoo. We see at the start of the film where he comes across quite friendly and happy to help the Sabinskis with their live-stock, especially after the bombings, and we see again a good range of emotion and character where we see almost a complete transformation from the start of the film to the end, as he tries to attack Antonina as it is revealed that she has been hiding the Jews from the Germans. I don’t think that there is really anyone who completely fails away from the cast in terms of being poor, and there isn’t a weak link in the cast, but as those two characters tend to be focused on the most and the growing relationship between the two during the film, those two stand out in the cast.
The Zookeeper`s Wife is a very good film that does the reflection very well, and tells the tale incredibly strongly. Releasing today in the UK (Friday 21st April), it`s a film that if you`re into your historical and non-fictual films, it`s worth checking out, as it`s a great addition.
Film: A Zookeeper`s Wife
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Jan Heldenbergh, Daniel Bruhl, Michael McElhatton
Director: Niki Caro
BBFC Rating: 12A – Moderate Violence, Threat, Nudity