2 items from 2004
A newspaper article about zoo animals in Kuwait City after the Iraqi invasion inspired Matthew Bishop to write "The Zookeeper".
Director Ralph Ziman took his inspiration from a zoo in Angola during its civil war. Producer Juliusz Kossakowski saw the story as taking place in Eastern Europe. Consequently, "Zookeeper", starring Sam Neill, has an allegorical feeling in which characters act out a tale of brutality and humanity that pathetically repeats itself.
This is a slow, thoughtful, overcalculated effort that is best-suited for art houses and possible cable exposure. Superb and intimate acting by Neill, British actress Gina McKee and a Bosnian-born, Danish-reared boy, Javor Loznica, make the film feel more like a play despite its war scenes and large zoo setting.
The unnamed locale is probably Bosnia. Neill, the enigmatic title character, is a cynical ex-Communist bureaucrat with a troubled past. When his fellow zoo workers flee a city coming under bombardment and sniper fire, he stays on with a veterinarian (Om Puri) and an aging guard. But the guard disappears, and racist partisans kill the vet.
Barely able to keep the animals alive without the vet, Neill nevertheless perseveres, flinging what remains of meat supplies into the cages and injecting medicine into sick ones.
Then a wounded boy (Loznica) turns up. After Neill reluctantly nurses him back to health, the boy returns with a woman (McKee) who is his mother. The zookeeper doesn't want the two around, fearful that the nationalists' murderous captain (Ulrich Thomsen) will discover them. But the unlikely "family" continues the struggle to keep themselves and the animals alive until U.N. troops arrive.
Clearly, Neill is living in self-imposed penance for past deeds during the Communist era. The boy, hardened by war into a tiny soldier who will kill if necessary, shies away from human contact, which he no longer trusts. And his mother, toughened as well by her ordeal at the hands of militia who treated her as a sexual toy, struggles to make sense out of this quiet man who secretly writes poetry.
The story by Bishop and Ziman does not lack for dramatic incidents. Yet the characters never emerge as fully rounded. They move in a haze of symbolism and allegory. They lack specificity and details that would individualize their plight.
At times, Ziman seems more sympathetic to the caged, frightened animals. He explores their horrifying predicament with concern and tenderness. But this does slow down the drama.
Cinematographer Piotr Kukla bathes the screen in blue-gray tones, as if the war had banished the cheer of rich colors. The sequences where explosions and gunfire rock the zoo, causing the animals to shake with terror, contain the film's strongest, most troubling images.
A Svendsen Films presentation
in association with Apollo Films Ltd.,
Pavel Novy Produckce and Maborosi
Producers: Juliusz Kossakowski, Michael Alden
Director: Ralph Ziman
Screenwriters: Ralph Ziman, Matthew Bishop
Director of photography: Piotr Kukla
Production designer: Martin Maly
Music: Nikolaj Egelund
Editor: Christopher Holmes
Ludovic: Sam Neill
Ankica: Gina McKee
Zioig: Javorf Loznica
Dragov: Ulrich Thomsen
The vet: Om Puri
Running time -- 104 minutes
No MPAA rating
16 January 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »
Kelly Preston, who starred as the mother in the big-screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat for Universal/DreamWorks/Imagine Entertainment, is set for the indie drama Return to Sender for helmer Bille August, sources confirmed. Penned by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the project will see Preston star as a lawyer fighting to exonerate a woman on death row. As the case unfolds, she begins to question the motives of a man who has befriended her client. Stephen Woolley and Michael Lunderskov are producing the project, which is lensing in Denmark before moving on to Oklahoma. Other casting is expected to be announced shortly. Preston is repped by ICM and Joel Stevens at Joel Stevens Entertainment. She can be seen in Eulogy, which premieres this month at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City. The black comedy also stars Ray Romano, Hank Azaria, Famke Janssen, Zooey Deschanel, Debra Winger and Jesse Bradford. »
2 items from 2004
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