The Zookeeper’s Wife (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 4, 2017 by  

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is a holocaust film that is entertaining, full of hope and based on a true story.  It’s not heavy or too deep, nor is there too much danger presented onscreen but mostly capturing human emotion to one another, towards animals and more.  These elements makes the film enjoyable from beginning to end.  And I recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2016 ZOOKEEPERS WIFE, L.P. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Zookeeper’s Wife


DURATION: 2 Hrs., 6 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Espanol DTS Digital Surroudn 5.1, Subtitles: English, Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1, English DVS Dolby Digital 2.0

COMPANY: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment


RELEASE DATE: July 4, 2017

Based on the book by Diane Ackerman

Directed by Niki Caro

Screenplay by Angela Worman

Produced by Jeff Abberley, Diane Miller Levin, Jamie Patricof

Executive Producer: Julia Blackman, Marc Butan, Jessica Chastain, Mickey Liddell, Jennifer Monroe, Joanne Sennitt, Pete Shilaimon, Michael Tollin, Robbie Tollin, Kevan Van Thompson

Co-Producer: Katie McNeill

Music by Harry Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by Andrij Parekh

Edited by David Coulson

Production Design by Suzie Davies

Art Direction: Jan Kalous, Dan Taylor, Magdalena Zemanova

Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts 

Costume Design: Bina Daigeler


Jessica Chastain as Antonina Zabinska

Johan Heidenbergh as Jan Zabinski

Daniel Bruhl  as Lutz Heck

Timothy Radford as Ryszard Zabinski (younger)

Efrat Dor as Magda Gross

Iddo Goldberg as Maurycy Fraenkel

Shira Haas as Urszula

Michael McElhatton as Jerzyk

Val Maloukou as Ryszard Zabsinki (Older)

In 1939 Poland, Antonina Zabinska (two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain) and her husband successfully run the Warsaw Zoo and raise their family in an idyllic existence. Their world is overturned, however, when the country is invaded by the Nazis and they are forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed zoologist (Daniel Brühl). To fight back on their own terms, the Zabinskis risk everything by covertly working with the Resistance and using the zoo’s hidden tunnels and cages to save families from Nazi brutality.

Based on the book “The Zookeeper’s Wife” by Diane Ackerman, based on the unpublished diary of Antonina Zabinski, the film with the same name, is based on Jan Zabinski, the director of the Warsaw Zoo and his wife Antonina Zabinski.

The two are known for saving the live of 300 Jews who were imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.  Yad Vashem (Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust) recognized Jan and Antonina Zabinski as “Righteous Among the Nations”.

The film is directed by Niki Caro (“Whale Rider, “North Country”, “McFarland, USA”) with a screenplay by Angela Workman (“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” and “War Bride:).

The film stars Jessica Chastain (“The Martian”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “The Help”), Johan Heldenbergh (“The Broken Circle Breakdown”, “Moscow, Belgium”, “The Brand New Testament”), Daniel Bruhl (“Inglorious Basterds”, Good Bye Lenin!”, “The Bourne Ultimatum”), Efrat Dor (“Asfur”, “Cupcakes”, “Dowtown Precinct”), Iddo Goldberg (“Secret Diary of a Call Girl”, “Salem”, “Peaky Blinders”), Shira Haas (“Princess”, “Shtisel”, “The Body Remembers”), Michael McElhatton (“Game of Thrones”, “The Fall”, “Genius”).

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film begins with an introduction to Dr. Jan Zabinska (portrayed by Johan Heldenbergh) and his wife Antonina (portrayed by Jessica Chastain).  Jan is the director of the Warsaw Zoo, while his wife Antonia is one of the keepers and cares deeply about the animals.

The two are parents to Ryszard (portrayed by Timothy Radford and Val Maloku) and one evening they entertain Berlin Zoo zoologist, Dr. Lutz Heck (portrayed by Daniel Bruhl).  Heck observes how Antonina cares for the animals and all would seem good with the zoo.

That is until an aerial bombardment of Warsaw and German forces start to storm Poland.  Many of the animals are killed and Dr. Jan Zabinski and the family are stuck at the zoo.  Dr. heck arrives to the zoo and tells Antonina that he wants to save the “prize” specimens, but she will have to let him have them.  Antonia, wanting to keep the animals alive agrees to do it.

But when Heck arrives, he has his men slaughter the animals, because he said that he had them killed out of mercy as they would have died in the cold.

Meanwhile, many of the Jews are moved to the Ghetto and the Zabinski’s friends, Maurycy Frankel (portrayed by Iddo Goldberg) and his girlfriend Magda Gross (portrayed by Efrat Dor) seek haven.  The Zabinski’s knowing the danger decide to offer shelter to Magda in a zoo cage in the attic, knowing that if they are caught, they would be killed by the Nazi.

The Zabinski’s realize they could use the zoo as a safe haven for the Jews but also use the zoo as a getaway whenever he needs to get supplies for animals, so they work out a deal with Dr. Heck that they can use the zoo as a pig farm to feed the soldiers, and Heck realizes that he can also use the zoo to test his bison specimens in hopes to experiment on them and recreate ancient beasts.

So, Heck makes it happen and immediately, and while Jan Zabinski starts to find ways to slowly bring Jews to hide them in the zoo and also create papers to make them German and also dying their hair blonde in hopes it will get them to safety.

But while Jan is gone, trying to save Jews, Antonina tries to keep the Jews hiding in the attic of their home safe, even if it means letting Dr. Heck getting close to her, which her husband disapproves of.


“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40 1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as a lot of the scenes were shot outdoors. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.


“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DVS 2.0 and Espanol DTS Digital Surround 5.1. Dialogue is crystal clear and surround channels utilize environment ambiance, but also moments of aerial bombings.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Espanol and Francais.


“The Zookeper’s Wife” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes– (4:00) Featuring seven deleted scenes.
  • The Making of the Zookeeper’s Wife – (7:05) Featuring author Diane Ackerman, the producers and film’s stars.
  • The Zabinski Family – (3:56) A featurette about the Zabinski family and the Warsaw Zoo.


“The Zookeeper’s Wife” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD plus an Ultraviolet HD Code.

Niki Caro’s film, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” manages to showcase the true story of the Zabinski family.  Jan and his wife Antonina, who used the Warsaw Zoo to hide hundreds of Jews and help them escape is a true story that showcases the high risk involved by the couple and the great lengths they had of trying to make it happen.

For the most part, the film is equally entertaining and captivating.  Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh’s performance were wonderful but what I found even more mesmerizing is how far the Zabinski’s went in trying to plan this refuge out but also how the Warsaw Zoo, which is thriving today, played a big part of how the Zabinski’s were able to rescue so many people.

But for those who watch film adaptations of true stories, the stories are often seeded with fictional situations and to make them a movie, there are are situations that never happened.  Through the diaries of Antonina Zabinski, we know about the risks involved and what the family had to endure.  But the film’s antagonist, Daniel Bruhl, who was a real-life German zoologist, animal researcher and director of the Berlin Zoological Garden, was indeed trying to recreate extinct wild animals.

It is true that the he was a high ranking officer and it was true that he came into contact with the Zabinki family.  But unlike the film, the real Heck was no longer needed once the pig farm was established, so there was no sexual advances or any major cowering of Antonina by the real-life Dr. Heck.

If anything, there were characters and situations created primarily for dramatic tension, which is understandable.  One can also read about what is fact and fiction, by clicking here.

Still, the film manages to be entertaining and for some people, also educational.  “The Zookeper’s Wife” was one of the most successful independent films to be released in 2017 but some may feel the film doesn’t play out the horror that was being inflicted on Jews.  Nothing too shocking or violent, if anything, the film plays it safely, to the point that it makes the film free of any major tension but also relieves the film from being overly heavy.  Those wanting nothing too deep will find “The Zookeepers Wife” to be a fine balance of between a film that has hope but less despairity compared to other holocaust films.

The Blu-ray features great detail and for the most part, the film looks great when shown close-up.  Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and ambiance and also a few special features are included.

Overall, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” is a holocaust film that is entertaining, full of hope and based on a true story.  It’s not heavy or too deep, nor is there too much danger presented onscreen but mostly capturing human emotion to one another, towards animals and more.  These elements makes the film enjoyable from beginning to end.  And I recommend it!

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