The Zookeeper’s Wife

Based on a true story, The Zookeeper’s Wife shows how Antonina, the zookeeper’s wife played by the beautiful Jessica Chastain and Jan Zabinski, the zoologist/zookeeper played by Johan Heldenbergh, not only save the surviving animals but how they hide Jews from persecution during World War II.

The Zabinskis helped save the lives of about 300 people while putting their own lives at risk.

When the zoo is first introduced, it is shown through the eyes of Antonina. The movie itself is through the eyes of Antonina.

Every morning she makes her rounds riding her bicycle around the zoo. There are elephants and a hungry hippo, which she feeds by hand. Lion cubs to cuddle with, in fact they are shown sleeping with her young son, Ryszard, and a playful camel which chases her daily.

About half an hour into the movie things take a turn. Bombs fall on Warsaw killing civilians and animals. German soldiers occupy the city, with them a zoologist Lutz Heck played by Daniel Bruhl, whom the Zabinskis knew before the invasion.

After the bombing, Lutz visits the Zabinskis with an interest of saving a few of the animals for his bleeding experiment. He hopes to bring back the auroch, an extinct animal.

Later, Lutz informs the couple of the closure of the zoo so the couple come up with the idea of making the zoo a pig farm, which would produce meat to feed the German soldiers while the pigs ate from the garbage bought from the Warsaw ghetto in daily truck runs done by Jan.

The plan was perfect in order to transport the Jews out of the ghetto and into the Zabinskis’ basement.

The movie makes you tear up in a lot of scenes and credit goes to the cast which portrayed each character breathtakingly. My personal favourite is the scene where Antonina plays the piano to warn the Jews hiding in her house.

Bruhl’s powerful performance, Heldenbergh’s jealously, Shira Haas’s fear of the German soldiers and every Jew’s gratitude towards the Zabinskis are depicted perfectly.

Knowing that this is an incredible real-life story gave me goosebumps and chills every time Jan would be allowed out of the Warsaw ghetto.

The movie reminds us of what makes us human and our ability to hope and rise beyond the darkness and hatred.

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