There’s not many movies that have moved me as much as The Zoookeeper’s Wife. Maybe it was the brilliant depiction of the lead character by the enigmatic and beautiful Jessica Chasthain, maybe it was the cruel and vivid treatment of a set of people by those that deemed themselves superior or maybe it was just that I was going through an emotional state! I have seen many movies that try to convey the horror and terror of the discriminatory and cruel nature of the human race but none affected me as much as this movie.
I watch many movies and most times I am not put off by the ridiculousness or the seriousness of the plot. But for this one, I had to stop watching halfway as I could not bring myself to put myself through the suffering that was being shown. I could not watch the cruelty to the animals as Nazi forces occupied the Warsaw Zoo; I could not watch as humans including children were being herded like cattle into rail carriages; I could not watch the burning of the suitcases and belongings of those who will never been seen again; I could not watch a professor talk about a “field trip to Rome” to mitigate the fact that his students were being taken away to a camp where they will eventually be gassed. I had to stop. I actually deleted it from my planner. I could not watch this movie anymore because it was so stark and real in its depiction of the events.
After a few weeks, I came back to the movie – only so that I don’t shy away from these issues and that I complete watching such an amazing cinematic achievement. Even then, I turned my face away in the scene where the children were being herded in to a cargo rail carriage whilst being forced to throw their belongings to one side of the platform – it was too real, too raw and too emotional for me to know that at one point of human history, that scene actually played itself out in real life.
Jessicca was, as always, brilliant in her role – her dedication, the accent, the vulnerability of the character – it was amazing to witness! I am truly flabbergasted as to why she has not won an Oscar, let alone be nominated, for this role. But she only shone as the brightest in a sky full of beautiful, twinkling stars – her onscreen husband, Johan Heldenbergh, shines as the tormented soul who needs his wife to play apart in trying to save the the lives of many at the same time risking her life and even her honour in the process; the brilliant Shira Haas, who so convincingly portrays the little girl who has been devastated by the cruel and harsh nature of the war; and by the ever so handsome Daniel Bruhl who wants to bed the lead character but at the same time is conflicted by his loyalty to the Reich.
This is a must watch, maybe an uncomfortable and tormentous watch, but still a must watch for any movie fan who is not about to shy away from the issues and historical events it depicts.
My only sadness is that a race that has endured and survived such a disgraceful and horrific treatment of themselves, are so willing and so quick to mete out the same treatment to another set of people, in the same way and manner without ever thinking of compassion or humanity.