In the midst of a devastating civil war in an Eastern European country, a disillusioned ex-Communist is left behind to take care of the animals in the capital's zoological gardens until a U.N. rescue force arrives.
Eastern Europe - a city torn by civil war - Present Day Jonah Ludovic writes in his journal. His poetry softening the cynical observations of a man living a self imposed penance. Wherever he came from and whoever he was, Ludovic is now alone, silenced by a crime unknown. Ludovic can hear the shelling of an imposing civil war. He can see the flashes of fire destroying a city that once was his home. He doesn't move. He just writes. As daybreak arrives, the shelling has ceased. Ludovic makes his way to his job as a custodian at the local zoo. He is met at the gates by the fleeing staff. Ludovic chooses to remain behind, he has no where to go. Along with an elderly guard and a veterinarian, the three set out to care for the animals and hopefully protect them and themselves, from harm. It is not long before the war has reached the gates of the zoo. Dragov, the sociopathic captain of a local search platoon of nationalists, heightens the intensity of the senseless war with surprise visits ...Written by
Michael Alden <firstname.lastname@example.org>
THE ZOOKEEPER was released in 2001 and is just now becoming available On Demand and in DVD. It is a harrowing, harshly realistic story both well written - by Matthew Bishop and writer/director Ralph Ziman - atmospherically captured by cinematographer Piotr Kukla, scored with intensity by Nikolaj Egelund - and acted with great skill by Sam Neill and his costars. It is a difficult story to share but one that is so well created that it deserves very wide exposure.
The story takes place in the present somewhere in Eastern Europe. Jonah Ludovic (Sam Neill) is a man living alone whose life as an ex-communist is bordered by his simple existence of writing strangely gentle and eloquent poetry in his journal, and maintaining his meager existence by being the Zookeeper at the municipal zoo. On this morning he hears the beginnings of a civil war: the sounds of gunfire and shelling and glimpses of fire startle him and he runs through the checkpoints to his zoo. At the zoo gates he encounters all of the workers running away to safety, leaving only Ludovic and the zoo's veterinarian (Om Puri) to care for the caged animals. Ludovic elects to stay at the zoo despite warning from the local warlord Yeltsov (Marek Vasut) and Dragov (Ulrich Thomsen), the vile sociopathic captain in charge of searching the for deserters and malcontents. Ludovic gathers his courage and states that the zoo is off limits to everyone, keeping his zoo as a sanctuary for his animals.
But out of the terrifying burning of the village comes a young boy Zioig (Javor Loznica) who seeks shelter. Ludovic at first refuses outsiders but eventually allows Zioig shelter, seeing that the boy loves animals. Together they feed the animals their rations and care for the sick ones. Zioig finds his mother, the newly widowed Anika (Gina McKee) who is disguised as a man to prevent being abused by the troops. There are similarities between Anika and Ludovic and they and the boy bond. Anika discovers Ludovic's journals and sees that this isolated, time bruised man is gentle at heart and as they begin to find each other the war explodes and the zoo is burned and all are left with how to cope with the destructive disaster of war. Can one survive without relinquishing principles and caring for living beings? The audience is left to make that decision.
Sam Neill does a masterful job creating a lonely man whose life has been inalterably changed before the story begins and allows us to see the transformation or softening of a victim of a war torn country. Gina McKee gives her finest performance to date and the acting of Om Puri, Ulrich Thomsen and Javor Loznica is exemplary. This is a very powerful film, one that deserves wide attention - especially now....
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