Film: The Reader
Cast includes: Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardener, The English Patient), Kate Winslet (Titanic, Revolutionary Road) and David Kross
In brief: It’s post-WWII Germany, and quite by chance, young Michael Berg meets and becomes smitten with the mysterious Hanna Schmitz. Stopping by her apartment almost daily after high school, the lovemaking afternoons eventually turn into sessions of reading to Hanna… followed, of course, by lovemaking. Michael has seriously fallen for Hanna, but the affair comes to an abrupt end when Hanna inexplicably disappears. The next time we catch up with Michael, he’s a law student sitting in on a Nazi war crimes trial, where it turns out that Hanna is among the defendants. Confused and troubled, Michael eventually realizes he has information that could affect the outcome of the trial… although nothing is clear-cut.
The Reader is an intelligent, beautifully produced movie with an excellent cast. David Kross, who plays the younger Michael, did not really speak English before he came on board with this project. But he was outstanding. And he mastered the part-British-part-German-accented English well enough to fit in with the two big-name leads. This is a thoughtful, somewhat melancholy film that takes place mostly in flashbacks. No high drama or fast-paced plot developments, the tension is in the conflicting emotions that twist and turn throughout the narrative.
The original book, The Reader, was translated into English from German and became a best seller in this country. It was one of an ongoing outpouring of German books featuring the holocaust in some way. This story is more about the characters than it is about the holocaust. While it doesn’t attempt to explain the holocaust, it does leave viewers thinking about the complex nature of terrible deeds committed by ordinary people. We find ourselves wanting leniency for Hanna, but is that just because it’s a movie?
3 popped kernels
Excellent storytelling about an interesting era... well developed characters, great acting... a good one to discuss afterward
Primary Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Appeal: Any audience
Distribution: Mainstream limited release
Tempo: Cruses comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Character Development: Intense
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking