ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Rebel Against The Nazis: The Zookeeper's Wife

Updated on April 15, 2017

Movie poster

Source

Synopsis

During World War II, people quietly made efforts to save the lives of many Jewish people from Nazi incarceration and death. The movie The Zookeeper's Wife takes a look at the efforts made by one Polish woman and her family to ensure the safety of some of the people targeted by the Nazis. The story begins in 1939 at the Warsaw Zoo, where Antonina Zabrinska (Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Jan Zabrinski (Johan Heldenbergh) are in charge of taking care of the animals there. The Blitzkrieg changes everything, as people and animals alike die in the bombing and gunfire. As the Nazis increase their presence in Poland, Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), a zookeeper from Berlin and Nazi officer, announces the closure of the Warsaw Zoo. He and his men confiscate the animals Heck prizes, and exterminate the ones Heck doesn't want.

While maintaining their residence at a now empty zoo, the Zabrinskis get the inspiration to help their Jewish friends. As the occupation starts to force Jews into a ghetto, one of them asks them to put her husband's life's work about insects, complete with displays, into safekeeping. Not only do they agree, but they give her a place to hide. Eventually, Jan and Antonina convince Heck to use their zoo as a pig farm as a means to feed German soldiers. Heck also uses the facility for animal experimentation, even though the Zabrinskis know Heck's plans won't work. To feed the pigs, Jan collects food scraps from the ghetto with his son Ryszard (Timothy Radford). Jan also uses the truck to smuggle some ghetto residents, covering them in the scraps to avoid detection. Some stay at the zoo, while others assume non-Jewish identities with the help of a local bakery. As the war and its atrocities continue, Jan and Antonina continue to work with caution, even as Heck starts to grow fond of Antonina.

Evaluation

The Zookeeper's Wife, based on the book about the Zabrinskis war efforts by Diane Ackerman (and according to what I've read, the uncredited diary accounts of Zabrinska, which were published as People And Animals), is another worthy account about people who found a way to stand against the Third Reich to save Jews. Antonina and Jan seldom expressed any open reservation to the plans Heck had so they could do their part to save friends and strangers alike. The Zookeeper's Wife is not in the same league as Schindler's List or The Pianist. For some reason, director Niki Caro, whose previous work includes Whale Rider and McFarland USA, downplays the human factor. The animal deaths in the early portion of the film should have cresendoed into a more emotional movie as humans lose their homes and their lives, but the drama becomes standard fare instead. The screenplay from Angela Workman doesn't really allow for any character development for those saved or for any other minor characters, such as the Zabrinskis housekeeper or their lead animal handler, though all were on the same side during the war years.

Chastain and Bruhl, however, give the film its greatest life in the struggle between good and evil. Antonina has watched the place she loved laid to virtual ruin, which helps to give her the resolve to help friends and strangers alike. Her guests know to remain silent by day, but she plays the piano twice a day - once to let them know it's safe to emerge and socialize for awhile, and later to let them know to resume hiding. Heck's advances make Antonina feel uneasy, but she knows she simply can't rebuff him, as he is a lifeline to her and the others. She especially wants to keep the teen Rsyzard (Val Maloku) free from Nazi influence. Bruhl shows a man emboldened by power as he not only participates in Hitler's "Final Solution," but he gets the notion of bringing the cattle-like aurochs back from extinction. He has free reign in Warsaw, and takes advantage where he can - especially as the war turns against the Germans. Heldenbergh, Radford, and Maloku provide good support, as do Iddo Goldberg and Efrat Dor as the couple who first reach out to the Zabrinskis. Shira Haas also has a small, but notable, part as Urszula, a teen Jan rescues after she's attacked by Nazi troops.

Conclusion

Tales of survival during World War II should be fertile ground for film stories. The Zookeeper's Wife, to some extent, succeeds. The movie, however, underplays the human factor, both in terms of heorism and tragedy. I would like to have known more about the others who did their parts in Warsaw besides the Zabrinskis. Many of these people found ways to defy Hitler without ever taking up arms against their oppressors. They showed that they did whatever they could to make their Jewish friends and acquaintances safe in a place where a warped and disturbing notion targeted them. Antonia and others simply found a way to hide their efforts in plain sight.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Zookeeper's Wife three stars. Warsaw's quiet fight against the Nazis.

The Zookeeper's Wife Trailer

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Pat Mills 

      17 months ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      Thanks Mel. I hope you do get the chance to see this. It doesn't have the best storytelling, but it still works.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      17 months ago from San Diego California

      This one definitely looks like it is worth a view. The genre never gets tired. I'll probably check it out when it makes the Starz/Cinemax rotation. Great article.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)