The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman | MOVIE REVIEW + Special Guest

On March 28th, my friend and I had the pleasure to attend an early screening of The Zookeeper's Wife. Thanks to the team at Focus Features for making this possible! Although quite long overdue, today I'm excited to share with you guys my thought about the movie. I started the book prior to watching the movie but still haven't finished it, so I'll save a book review for the next time! My friend, Mandy, will also be joining me on a joint review. She's way more seasoned than I in the time period in which this takes place, as she works in our school's Holocaust museum. I brought her along with me because she was interested in the movie from the beginning, and she's really passionate about educating herself at this time in history. 

Title: The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story
Author: Diane Ackerman
Pages: 384 pages
Release Date: September 7th, 2017
Genre: Nonfiction, History, World War II
In 1939 Poland, Antonina Żabiński (portrayed by two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh), have the Warsaw Zoo flourishing under his stewardship and her care. When their country is invaded by the Nazis, Jan and Antonina are—and forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl). To fight back on their own terms, the Żabińskis 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.

The Washington Post praised the book as being “simultaneously grave and exuberant, wise and playful,” while Jonathan Safran Foer wrote, “The Zookeeper's Wife will touch every nerve you have.”

A Focus Features release, it is directed by Niki Caro, written by Angela Workman.

Buy it now! 

The Holocaust was irrevocably one of the most terrible and tragic events to have occurred in history. Not only did so many Jewish people lose their lives, but many risked their lives to shelter them and fight this injustice. Two of those people were Antonina and Jan Zabinski and their son Rys Zabinski- a family who spent most of WWII hiding away Jews in their zoo. The Zookeeper's Wife is a true story retold through the eyes of Diane Ackerman who perfectly captured the innocent and fragile atmosphere of everyone inside the zoo while the world crumbled around them.

The last time a movie made me cry, I think it was The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. I cried during a eulogy, a part near the end of the movie. However when I was watching TZW, I was crying throughout the entire thing. It's sad to admit that I had never studied the facts of what really happened during the Holocaust- how Jewish people in hiding lived from day to day and the fears of citizens who hid them. I responded well to the way director Niki Caro decided to portray the horrifying things that happened in the ghettos. I appreciated how most of the movie's scenes were spoken in silence and dialogue-free. It gave the actions of the animals and the characters all the more power, and that is something I really appreciated. I remember my friend who came out of the theater with me and the first thing she said was, "that was the best movie I've seen all year." I responded by saying, "I couldn't agree more." The Zookeeper's Wife is a moving and emotionally exceptional addition to the cinema. Never in Hollywood have I seen such a raw and truthful piece. I truly believe that this movie brings awareness to the Holocaust, encourages people to learn more about it and states that although this was something that has happened in our past, we have moved past it. 

As time passes, it becomes harder to remember the Holocaust in a non-statistical way. It becomes harder to remember the 6 million victims as 6 million individuals. It becomes harder to remember the others like the main characters of “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” who do not fit the victim nor the perpetrator category. In the Holocaust Leadership class at my school we stress: do not be a perpetrator, do not be a victim, and above all, do not be a bystander, in order to live up to the “never again” legacy. Part of why the bystander role is so important is because of its potential to transform into the resistance like the one the Zabinski couple created. They were willing to risk exchanging their safety and the safety of their children for the hundreds of lives they saved. This film excelled at capturing the dangers of the resistance. I held my breath in fear during countless moments that were so accurately portrayed by the characters. 

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