Zookeeper's Wife, The (Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 2-Aug-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Deleted Scenes-x 6 (4:24)
Featurette-Making of The Zookeeper’s Wife (7:06)
Featurette-The Zabinsky Family (3:57)
Trailer-x 3 for other releases
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 126:26
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Niki Caro
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jessica Chastain
Johan Heldenberg
Daniel Bruhl
Michael McElhatton
Efrat Dor
Iddo Goldberb
Shira Haas


Case ?
RPI ? Music Harry Gregson-Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Warsaw, Poland, 1939: on the eve of WW2 Jan and Antonina Zabinski (Johan Heldenberg, Jessica Chastain) run, with the help of animal keeper Jerzyk (Michael McElhatton) , the successful Warsaw Zoo. Jan is a respected zoologist but Antonina has the rapport and touch with the animals, something which impresses visiting German zoologist, and head of the Berlin Zoo, Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl). When Germany invades Poland in September 1939, Warsaw, including the zoo, is bombed and many of the animals are killed or escape, to be killed as they prowled the streets. Warsaw is later occupied by the Germans; over the following winter food is scarce for humans, let alone food and fodder for the remaining animals, so when Lutz, back in Warsaw as one of the occupying force, proposes that he take the best of the remaining animals to Berlin for safekeeping, Antonina agrees.

     Later the Germans forcefully move the Warsaw Jews into one, rigidly controlled, ghetto area surrounded by guards, wire and walls. The Zabinskis have Jewish colleagues and friends and they decide to hide Magda (Efrat Dor) in their house while Jan also makes contact with the Jewish resistance. The pressure increases on Jan and Antonina when the German authorities decide to liquidate the zoo and take over the land for military purposes; however, the Zabinskis persuade Lutz that a better idea would be to use the zoo to farm pigs as food for the German soldiers, using the rubbish and waste from the ghetto as feed. As such, Jan and Jerzyk are permitted take their truck into the ghetto to collect waste and they smuggle Jews out, hidden under the scraps. The Jews then stay in the Zabinski house at the zoo until they can be moved to another safe house. But as the war starts to turn against the Germans in 1943 and 1944 the Jews in the ghetto are packed into trains and removed to concentration camps and the ghetto destroyed. Jan joins the resistance fighters as the Zabinskis continue their dangerous game, even more fraught for Antonina as Lutz, their main contact and protector, has become enamoured with her, requiring of Antonina a very fine balancing act indeed.

     The Zookeeper’s Wife is based upon a non-fiction book written by Diane Ackerman that was published in 2007, itself based on the diaries of the Zabinskis. The director is New Zealander Niki Caro, who directed the excellent Whale Rider (2002), and she tells the story in an old fashioned, straightforward, linear way without camera tricks. When the zoo is bombed near to the start of the film we hear the aircraft overhead but do not see them; instead Caro focuses on the explosions and the terrified animals, making for a very effective, and affecting, sequence. Shot in Prague by cinematographer Andrij Parekh, the zoo set looks impressive, and as the filmmakers used real animals, not CGI (the baby camel is a hoot), the film looks and feels authentic. The ghetto set is extensive, and believable, the fighting during the uprising chaotic and realistic, giving the film a verisimilitude that is impressive.

     The entire cast is very good, although this is Jessica Chastain’s picture. Chastain is one of the most consistent female performers working at the moment and I have enjoyed her performances in everything I have seen her in, such as A Most Violent Year (2014). She has been nominated twice for Oscars, for The Help (2011) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), but is yet to win. She has appeared in films for many of the top directors, such as Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014), Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (2015) and Ridley Scott’s The Martian (2015) so awards should not be long in coming.

     Holocaust pictures are not uncommon and The Zookeeper’s Wife does not tell a story that has not been told before. But while it does not shy away from the horrible events that occurred in Warsaw during the German occupation, it does not dwell on the atrocities nor is it overly bleak or depressing. Instead it is a story of hope, a small personal story of one courageous family, caught amid huge upheavals and events, a story that, again, shows that individuals are capable of humanity, sympathy, understanding and heroics in the most terrible of circumstances.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Zookeeper’s Wife is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The film looks as good as a recent film shot using Arri Alexa cameras should look. Colours are glossy but natural, especially the daylight scenes in the zoo before the war. The film is also sharp with details such as Chastain’s hair clearly showing. Some sequences are softer and the colours dull, such as the winter in the ghetto, which seems appropriate. Blacks and shadow detail is good, skin tones fine and brightness and contrast consistent.

     Other than some noise reduction, I did not notice any artefacts or marks.

     English subtitles in a clear white font for the Hearing Impaired are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English DTS-HD MA 5.1 plus English descriptive audio (Dolby Digital 2.0).

     The audio is excellent, except that some of the dialogue is hard to hear due to accents or quiet speech. The rears and surrounds are utilised continuously for effects such as animal calls, the rumble of cart wheels on cobbled streets, passing vehicles, voices in the crowds or the ghetto and music. During the action scenes they are loud and enveloping; aircraft engines roar overhead, explosions reverberate and debris rain down, while gunshots are crisp and loud. The subwoofer provided appropriate boom to the engines, explosions, crashing buildings and fire during the destruction of the ghetto.

     The orchestral score by Harry Gregson-Williams is not overused but is melodious and poignant, providing effective support to the visuals.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Start-up Trailers (6:24)

     Trailers for The Sense of an Ending, Song to Song and The Circle play on start-up. They cannot be selected from the menu.

Deleted Scenes (4:24)

     Six deleted scenes, each named in a text screen. They were cut late in the process for all have full sound effects. They play consecutively and there is no individual play option.

Making of The Zookeeper’s Wife (7:06)

     A brief and superficial look into the film, covering the book on which the film was based, using real animals, casting Jessica Chastain and her genuine affinity with animals, the set and costumes. It includes film and behind the scenes footage plus brief comments from author Diane Ackerman, screenwriter Angela Workman, director Niki Caro, cast members Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenberg, Daniel Bruhl, Shira Haas, Iddo Goldberb and Efrat Dor plus four producers, the production designer, costume designer and hair and make-up designer.

The Zabinsky Family (3:57)

     The director, author, three cast members and two Zabinski children talk about Antonina and Jan Zabinski.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This release is the same as the Region A US Blu-ray of The Zookeeper’s Wife except for a couple of language and subtitle options.

Summary

     I imagine that the broad outline of The Zookeeper’s Wife is true, given that it was based on the diaries of the family involved and that the two grown up children of the Zabinskis appear in the extra features, although I would think that some things have certainly been changed for dramatic purposes. The sets of The Zookeeper’s Wife are impressive and the action is chaotic and well-staged. By their very nature, films about the holocaust, chronicling the terrible things humans can do to their fellow humans, can be bleak and depressing but Niki Caro, by telling a personal story of hope, courage and survival and getting a wonderful performance from Jessica Chastain, has delivered a film that is both more uplifting and less bleak than most on this theme.

     The video and audio are very good. The extras are minor but are the same as available elsewhere.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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