Movie Mixtape: The Zookeeper's Wife31 March 2017 / by Shauna Cox (author)
Poland; 1939. Germans troops invade the country and everyone’s life is on the line. But what if you owned a zoo? What happens to the lives of those who cannot speak?
The results aren’t good, creating a melancholy feeling right from the beginning. A happy, fun and tourist filled zoo quickly becomes an empty eggshell, used as an arms base for the German troops. But this eggshell soon becomes an important new home to some other guests.
Written and directed by women, The Zookeeper’s Wife stars Jessica Chastain as Antonina, the heroine of the story. With the help of her husband, they smuggle people out of the Warsaw Ghettos and hide them in their zoo. Between the years 1939 and 1945 they create “A human zoo” as Antonina describes.
Based on the nonfiction novel by Diane Ackerman, this film truly captures the horrid times of being under Nazi control, trying to outsmart them and not getting caught.
Producers Diane Miller Levin and Robbie Rowe Tollin, said they were “floored at how Antonina answered a call to action and accepted so many challenges: hiding people in abandoned animal cages and underground tunnels, sacrificing to feed the guests and bolstering their spirits with music – all the while putting her life and the lives of her children on the line.”
I found this movie to be brilliant in the way it captures the personal side of history that we can’t read in a textbook. Rather than the battlefields, viewers experience the battles people face at home and how they resisted against the Germans.
Now, I can admit that there were a couple of tears just 20 minutes in, this certainly isn’t a pick-me-up. But this movie is crucial in knowing the impact of WWII.
Producer Robbie Rowe Tollin says “What sets this apart from other WWII histories is that it is an intimate story between a husband and wife. We were fascinated at how it was about a family fighting to keep their everyday life, and marriage, healthy amidst a war,”
The cinematography along with the music was fantastic. Although Chastain delivers a Polish accent well, not all accents came through like hers. There were some German characters who sounded too American but it wasn’t a big distraction. The different settings and costumes were well made and historically accurate. As a person who studies this history, it was hard to pick out things that didn’t fit.
You could tell the screenwriter, Angela Workman, had a passionate drive with well researched knowledge to be able to tell this story right.