“Hey,” says your mom. “Let’s go to the zoo and see the animals,” and right away, you know she’s talking about monkeys swinging from ropes, lions and tigers pacing, seals diving into pools, stately giraffes, not animals with hats, coats, jackets and strollers who will be wandering the paths between cages. We’re animals too, of course, but at the zoo there’s a line (and its emphatic, with iron bars, a deep trench, a wedge of glass) that puts us on the outside and them on the inside, so weirdly, spending time with zoo animals is so — unnatural. If that cage weren’t there, you wouldn’t lift your 2-year-old out of the stroller, hoist her 30 inches from a tigress and and murmur, “Look at the big kitty!” But at the zoo, you can. You probably have.
But then a friend (thank you Ike) sends me this little 1962 film from Holland by Bert Haanstra. It’s called, simply “Zoo” and magically, it makes the cages, the trenches, the walls disappear, and what you get is a real zoo — a mix-it-up porridge of animal life, where all the animals, the mischievous little boys, the oh-so-shy monkey, the proud baboon, the wide-eyed girl and the yawning lady trade moods, glances, worlds — our differences melt into little moments of us being like them, them being like us. I’m only showing you a slice because I’m guessing you’re pretty busy, but if you can spare 11 minutes to watch the cooing, the snacking, the swinging, the conking-on-the-head, and the gossiping, you’ll find the whole thing right here.
Meanwhile, here’s a few moments — just a taste.