Coming to Blu-ray and DVD on July 4 and currently on Digital HD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and director Niki Caro is a story hope from “The Zookeeper’s Wife.”
The Warsaw Zoo is owned by Antonia (Jessica Chastain) and Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh), a couple who have dedicated their lives to their love of animals. Along with their son Ryszard (Timothy Radford), their days are spent tending to the zoo.
Then comes the German invasion and bombs are dropped all over Warsaw, including the zoo. Sending animals everywhere, the Zabinski’s try to find and return them home. Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl) a zoologist, comes to Antonia and offers to take their prize animals to the zoo in Germany and return them when the war is over.
Knowing he is right, Antonia tells her husband Jan it is the right thing to do for the animals. What they don’t expect is the return of Lutz wearing the uniform of a German officer who immediately shoots animals left over. Immediately the Jewish population is rounded up and family friends are afraid. Antonia and Jan agree to take in Magda (Efrat Dor) knowing it could cost them everything.
Jan learns that there are ways to help other Jews and tells Antonia they must try. Coming up with a plan, they go to Lutz wanting to turn the zoo into a pig farm that will feed the German soldiers. Agreeing, Lutz also says he wants to continue his cross-breeding work which means unexpected visits to the zoo.
What Lutz doesn’t know is the real truth behind the pig farm. Jan and Antonia use food scraps from the ghetto where the Jews have been sent as a way to do their part for the resistance. They use the cellar of the zoo to become a way station for those they can save.
Antonia knows that she must keep Lutz’s focus on her if Jan and zoo employee Jerzyk (Michael McElhatton) are to help more and more before they are discovered.
Chastain as Antonia is a woman who loves her family, the animals and their zoo. Nothing gets in the way of helping the creatures she is charges with caring for. When the opportunity comes to help the people of war with her zoo, she may be afraid but knows it’s the right thing. Chastain is such a strong actress and this role fits her to perfection.
Bruhl as Lutz has the duality of a man who is dedicated to his zoology and serving in the German military. Finding solace at the zoo working with Antonia, there comes a moment when it all begins to unravel and his reaction is frightening. Bruhl has taken on so many different roles and in “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” it is once again good versus evil within the character.
Heldenbergh as Jan immediately begins to find ways to help his Jewish neighbors. Getting deeper and deeper, the danger is right in front of him yet he continues. Seeing the horrors is sometimes more than he can stand which sends him even further into the resistance – such a strong performance.
Other cast include Iddo Goldberg as Maurycy Fraenkel, Martha Issova as Regina Kenigswein, Daniel Ratimorsky as Samuel Kenigswein, Arnost Goldflam as Dr. Janusz Korczak, Marian Mitas as Stefan, Waldemar Kobus as Dr. Ziegler, Slavko Sobin as Mr. Keller, Alena Mihulova as Marysia Aszer and Shira Haas as Urszula.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us all to experience and re-experience in our own home theatres. There are films of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.
“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is a story of humanity, love, resistance and doing what is right at all costs. The film is based on a book by Diane Ackerman inspired by the unpublished diary of Antonia and Jan Zabinski. Published in 2007, it didn’t take long for “The Zookeeper’s Wife” to become number 13 on the New York Times best seller list.
Coming to film, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” used no CGI but real animals including the lion baby cubs. Also, although the zoo was in Warsaw, the story was filmed in Prague. Both of these add elements to the film that are rich and stunning to a story that is so heartfelt and intense.
The Blu-ray/ DVD and Digital HD includes the special features of “Deleted Scenes,” “The Making of ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’” as filmmakers, cast, and crew discuss the challenges they encountered in making the film, including recreating the Warsaw Zoo; working with the animals; and doing justice to such an important story, “The Zabinski Family” – a closer look at the selfless family at the center of “The Zookeeper’s Wife” including interviews with Teresa Sabinski and Ryszard Sabinski, the children of Antonia and Jan.
In the end – they gave all they had to save all they could!