When you watch movies about World War II, they are dark, violent and often hopeless. There’s no denying that it was a dark part of history and horrible things happened during that time. But The Zookeeper’s Wife brings another side of the story to the big screen – the true life story of Antonina Żabińska, a mother in Poland who put her life as well as everything she loved at risk in order to help save over 300 people.
I was invited by Focus Features to screen The Zookeeper’s Wife before it hits theaters this month, and didn’t know much about the story we were going to watch unfold in front of us. Based on the best selling book of the same name, The Zookeeper’s Wife is actually based on the journals of Antonina and her experiences during the war. The book follows Antonina go from the wife of a zookeeper, watching her husband fight in the resistance and the sacrifices her and her family made in order to save over 300 people from the Warsaw Ghetto and ultimately death.
The movie follows the book closely, but there are some slight changes and additions for the story. There are moments of violence that are alluded to in the movie, but unlike every other movie that tackles World War II and the Holocaust, they are mostly off screen. The movie makes a concerted effort to tell the story of the Żabiński family, the survivors and the power of kindness to others.
With such a sensitive topic, the director Niki Caro, made sure to tell Antonina’s story with dignity and sensitivity. There are moments that still may be upsetting for viewers to watch and the several others that will bring you to tears. The story is powerful, and unlike the countless others I’ve watched over the years. The Zookeeper’s Wife shows you the glimmer of light in such a dark time that Antonina brought to so many lives. A story that was almost forgotten by history, and is now a reminder for us all that one person can make a difference and bring light into the darkness.
The Zookeeper’s Wife opens in select theaters on March 31st and open nationwide shortly after. Due to the topic and some scenes, I would suggest this to an older audience, but The Zookeeper’s Wife is definitely a movie that everyone should see. There’s so much we can all learn from Antonina.
The Official Trailer for The Zookeeper’s Wife:
About The Zookeeper’s Wife:
The real-life story of one working wife and mother who became a hero to hundreds during World War II. In 1939 Poland, Antonina Żabińska (portrayed by two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh of “The Broken Circle Breakdown”), have the Warsaw Zoo flourishing under his stewardship and her care. When their country is invaded by the Nazis, Jan and Antonina are stunned – and forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl of “Captain America: Civil War”). To fight back on their own terms, Antonina and Jan covertly begin working with the Resistance – and put into action plans to save lives out of what has become the Warsaw Ghetto, with Antonina putting herself and even her children at great risk.
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