The skanner. (Portland, Or.) 1975-2014, April 05, 2017, Page Page 7, Image 7

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    April 5, 2017 The Skanner Page 7
Arts & Entertainment
FILM REVIEW: ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’, A Heroine Who Saved Hundreds of Jews
The Zookeeper’s Wife is a fact-based docudrama adapted from the best seller book based on an unpublished memoir by Antonina Zabinski.
By Kam Williams
For The Skanner News
n 1928, Dr. Jan Zabins-
ki (Johan Heldenber-
gh) became the direc-
tor of the Warsaw Zoo.
Over the next decade, he
ran it with the help of
his wife, Antonina (Jes-
sica Chastain), who was
something of a wildlife
whisperer. The institu-
tion fl ourished under
their auspices until the
outbreak of the Second
World War in September
of ‘39 when Hitler invad-
ed Poland.
The zoo was closed to
the public aft er being
repeatedly bombed by
the Luft waff e during the
siege of the city. However,
the Zabinskis continued
to live on the grounds
with their young son
(Timothy Radford) and
the beleaguered animals
that survived the attacks.
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But once Warsaw was
occupied by the Nazis,
the couple was ordered
to report directly to Lutz
Heck (Daniel Bruhl), the
Third Reich’s recent-
ly-appointed chief zo-
ologist. Despite being
married, Heck never
bothered to hide his lust
for attractive Antonina,
shamelessly forcing him-
self on her as they attend-
ed to the agglomeration
of exotic beasts scattered
around the premises.
Knowing that resis-
tance was futile and
might cost her her life,
Jan directed his wife to
submit to the unwelcome
advances. And he under-
standably ended up feel-
ing utterly emasculated
by the frustration of fail-
ing to prevent her being
pawed by the creepy Hit-
ler henchman.
Zabinskis did fi nd an av-
enue of retaliation: the
Polish resistance move-
ment. Joining the Un-
derground, they secret-
ly helped smuggle Jews
destined for the concen-
tration camps out of the
Warsaw ghetto. Further-
more, they hid the escap-
ees on the grounds of the
zoo at a time when death
was the punishment for
attempting to liberate a
This is the spine-tin-
gling series of events
Zookeeper’s Wife," a
adapted from Diane Ack-
erman’s best seller of the
same name. Ackerman’s
book, FYI, had, in turn,
been based on an unpub-
lished memoir by Anton-
ina Zabinski herself.
Directed by Niki Caro
("Whale Rider"), the
picture stars Jessica
Chastain as the fear-
less and endearing title
character. The two-time
Academy Award-nomi-
nee (for "The Help" and
"Zero Dark Thirty") de-
livers another quality
performance, which is
no surprise given how
Caro has previously
coaxed Oscar-nominated
work out of a trio of tal-
ented actresses (Charlize
Theron, Frances McDor-
mand and Keisha Cas-
A bittersweet biopic
belatedly paying tribute
to an unsung heroine
who selfl essly put her
life on the line in the face
of unspeakable evil.
Excellent HHHH
Rated PG-13 for violence,
disturbing images, ma-
ture themes, smoking,
sexuality and brief nu-
Running time: 126 min.
Studio: Scion Films
Distributor: Focus Fea-