27 April 2017 | Last updated 05:51 PM

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The war on humanity
Deepa Gahlot | Friday, 21 April 2017 AT 09:43 PM IST
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There have been so many films about the Holocaust — Schindler’s List, The Pianist, Life Is Beautiful, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Book Thief, to name just a few, that one more film that jumps on to that bandwagon, needs to have something new to offer.

Niki Caro’s film, The Zookeeper’s Wife, has animals somehow underlining the unmitigated horror that the Jews went through at the hands of the Nazis, but it still has a paint-by-numbers feel to it.

Jessica Chastain plays Antonina Zabinska, the title character of the film and Diane Ackerman’s 2007 nonfiction book on which it is based.

The film is set in 1939 Warsaw, where Antonina and her husband Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) run a small zoo. It is a story of great courage at a time when every dissenting voice was ruthlessly crushed. When the war begins and Hitler’s German army invades Poland, the Jews are targeted as they were wherever the Nazi’s landed.

The Zabinskas risk their lives to save several Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, by hiding them in the zoo. Their situation is complicated by a German zoologist, Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl), who falls for Antonina.

The story is moving, of course — the terrible tragedy of the Jews cannot be underlined enough — but in the attempt to make the film look beautiful and Jessica Chastain heroic and compassionate, the film soft pedals the issue. The love triangle doesn’t simmer either, and ultimately the film is just too flat for its own good, picking a conventional storytelling style.

The images of the animals running amok in the city are striking — what did these innocent animals do to deserve this suffering, the film seems to ask, aiming at the hearts of animal lovers. Jessica, with her practised accent and anguished beauty, is likely to be Oscar bait when the time comes.


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