Some of my favourite films are about my fascination with the Second World War. It is not from a morbid fascination with the horrors of war, but from my humanist view to understand its futility and on occasions to be surprised by the triumph of the human spirit against all odds. I am also in awe of the many remarkable people of The Holocaust like Oscar Schindler, who saved over 1,200 Jewish lives and Miep Gies, who helped hide and protect the Frank and van Pel families and Fritz Pfeffer. Interestingly, Meip Gies was also responsible for retrieving Anne Franks diary and hiding it. After the war she would pass on the diary to Anne’s father Otto, who would have it published.
Stories like these are touching and humane, as is the story of Jan and Antonia Zabinski and their daring rescue of 300 Jewish refugees during the Holocaust in Warsaw, Poland. This great and untold story of heroism comes to life for the first time via the World War II historical drama, The Zookeeper’s Wife, starring Johan Heldenbergh and Jessica Chastain, as both Jan and Antonia Zabinski. It shows the chaotic and brutal nature of being ooccupied by an enemy force, who has no moral compass. And it is here from the depths of despair, that both Jan and Antonia step up in their duties as Polish citizens, truly carrying out superhuman feats.
But our attention is for the most part fixated on the courageous Antonia, who is forced to befriend the Reich’s chief zoologist, Lutz Heck in an attempt to keep him in the dark, as the Zabinski’s rescue hundreds of Jews from the Warsaw ghettos, by hiding them in their zoo. Even after Jan is captured while fighting with the Polish resistance during the Warsaw Uprising, Antonio dutifully carries on despite her own fear and grief.
The Zookeeper’s Wife is a brave attempt at telling a worthy story, but falls short of the class of films like The Pianist or Schindler’s List. In spite of some flaws, I really liked this period drama, especially Jessica Chastain’s warm and compassionate portrayal of Antonia.
Photo credit: The header movie still image from the film The Zookeeper’s Wife is courtesy of Focus Films. I make use of it under the rationale of fair use because no free equivalent seems to exist and it helps serve as the primary means of visual identification of the films in question here above. I am not the uploader of the You Tube clip embedded here.