The time is 1939 and the place is Poland, homeland of Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Dr. Jan Zabinski. The Warsaw Zoo flourishes under Jan’s stewardship and Antonina’s care. When their country is invaded by the Nazis, Jan and Antonina are forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck. The Zabinskis covertly begin working with the Resistance and put into action plans to save the lives of hundreds from what has become the Warsaw Ghetto. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha M. comments, “This film is truly incredible because it shows how kind hearted people are. Given that the movie takes place in Poland during World War II, there is a lot of tension among the Jewish and German residents because the Jewish Holocaust is occurring. But, the main characters, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, still manage to take care of their zoo and try to keep the animals safe.”Lucia F. adds, “I really enjoyed The Zookeeper’s Wife…This movie was moving and beautifully done, but there are some scenes that were a little too intense for me.” See their full reviews below.
The Zookeeper’s Wife
By Samantha Marcus, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
This film is truly incredible because it shows how kind hearted people are. Given that the movie takes place in Poland during World War II, there is a lot of tension among the Jewish and German residents because the Jewish Holocaust is occurring. But, the main characters, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, still manage to take care of their zoo and try to keep the animals safe.
In the midst of World War II, Adolf Hitler’s power permeates in Poland, specifically in the Warsaw ghetto, where there are many Jewish inhabitants. Living in Warsaw is Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain), her husband Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh) and their son. They are in charge of the Warsaw Zoo, where any animal you can imagine lives. Bombs are hitting the Warsaw Zoo, killing many of the animals. The zoo is almost completely destroyed, and the Zabinski’s decide to use it as a Jewish sanctuary.
Jessica Chastain’s portrayal of Antonina is quite believable. Antonina is a beautiful woman who loves animals more than she loves herself and she does her best to ensure that everything goes as planned. Johan Heldenbergh, who plays Jan, is very brave. He acts as an assistant to a German soldier and looks for creative ways to transport the Jews to safety. They put their lives on the line to save others, which truly is remarkable.
The Warsaw Zoo looks astonishing. It is huge! There are so many beautiful trees, and there are animals walking around with Antonina. I want to now have my own zoo someday!
My favorite part of the movie is when Antonina is riding her bicycle and she calls her camel to walk alongside her. This camel is hilarious because he makes strange noises and he hops so quickly. He acts as a police patrol for the zoo, which I think is extremely funny.
The message of this film is to help others. Antonina and Jan Zabinski try to help hundreds of Jews stay safe and do not put themselves first. Antonina and Jan live in imminent danger themselves and all they can focus on is making a difference, which I admire greatly.
I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars. It is so inspiring and there are animals in it, for which I have a great soft spot. Given that there are many casualties among animals and people, I recommend this film to ages 18 to adult. This film is not afraid to depict historical reality, so it may be difficult to watch some scenes, but this movie is now one of my favorites. Watch this film if you enjoy history and films that are based on true stories. It comes out on March 31, 2017 in theaters so, make sure to keep your eyes open for it. It is a movie you certainly don’t want to miss.
The Zookeeper’s Wife
By Lucia Funaro KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 18
I really enjoyed The Zookeeper’s Wife. It is a real-life story about love and caring under extreme conditions in the midst of war. Antonina Zabinska and her husband, Dr. Jan Zabinski, are so brave and generous. They saved the lives of almost 300 Jewish people by hiding them in their basement under their zoo during the German invasion in Poland in WWII. This movie was moving and beautifully done, but there are some scenes that were a little too intense for me.
The plot is a true story that occurred during the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939 to1945. The Warsaw Zoo, owned by the main characters, is bombed and so many animals unnecessarily slaughtered. The brave owners rescued and protected hundreds of local Jewish people from the Nazis. The main character is Antonina Zabinska (Jessica Chastain). She is the leader of this establishment and comes up with the idea to hide the Jewish people. The film tells a wonderful true story about this modest woman who accomplished an amazing feat.
The message is that an unassuming woman was able to save many human lives even though she would have been killed instantly by the Nazis if they knew she had sheltered these people. She does everything in her power to ensure almost everyone’s safety. I love how Jessica Chastain portrays Antonina. She remains calm about the situation and believes it is going to work out okay for everyone. Even though she is nervous about the advances of the Nazi zoologist Heck, she still tries to manage her nervousness when in front of the children. She has tremendous strength of character.
What really stood out for me was the opening scene when you see two cute lion cubs sleeping with a young child and her mother watching lovingly over them. Juxtaposed with that adorableness is a scene later where many of the animals are killed by the Nazis. It is extremely shocking and sad to see these beautiful animals so needlessly slaughtered. Another very intense, but effective scene is when two Nazi soldiers are flirting with a young teenage girl and then, you see the girl beaten up and blood running down her leg. Even though the attack on the girl is not shown, the aftermath of the rape shows the cruelty of the Nazis.
I give this film 5 out of 5 stars because it effectively tells a beautiful, true story about the power one woman’s loving heart. This movie contains intense scenes, so I recommended it for kids 13 to 18. This film is in theaters now so, check it out.
Credit: KIDS FIRST!