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The Reader (2008)

A movie directed by Stephen Daldry

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Literacy and Other Barriers: Revisiting a Brilliant Film

  • Feb 21, 2010
Rating:
+5
THE READER in the form of Bernard Schlink's masterful book made an emotional impact on those who read it. And for once the book to film version holds nearly as much agony and beauty as the original. The screenplay is by David Hare (whose transformation of 'The Hours' was so worthy) and it captures not only the dialogue of Schlink's novel but fills in the silences with well-constructed added commentary. Stephen Daldry ('The Hours', 'Billy Elliot') directs with great sensitivity to not only the narrative story but to the myriad metaphors that fill the quiet spaces in both the novel and the film.

Michael Berg (David Kross, a significant discovery!) lives in Berlin, falls ill with Scarlet Fever, and is given shelter from the rain and cold by a stern appearing Hanna (Kate Winslet). When Michael recovers from his illness he returns to Hanna's flat to thank her for her kindness and there begins a strange and beautiful love affair between a virginal shy lad and an older but obviously emotionally flat yet needy woman. Despite Michael's family's disdain for his absences away from home, Michael surrenders himself to the passion of love and Hanna softens as she pleads for Michael to read to her. Reading and sex become exchanges for this rare couple until Hanna disappears. Michael discovers her some ears later when Hanna is on trial for war crimes (she had been a guard in the concentration camps). Hanna allows her guilt to override reality in confessing she had been the one who had written the orders for the extermination of Jews - this despite the fact that Hanna is illiterate, a fact known only to Michael.

While Hanna is imprisoned Michael (now Ralph Fiennes) records his reading of books to send to Hanna and during Hanna's twenty years of confinement she learns to read and write because of Michael's efforts and gifts. Once Hanna is scheduled to be released from prison and the prison matron convinces Michael to be in charge of the aging Hanna, the story takes turns and the ending is so gently painful that sharing it would ruin the impact for those who have neither read the book nor seen the film.

Winslet, Kross, and Fiennes are excellent in these very difficult roles. Their performances are enhanced with the supporting cast that includes special cameos by Lena Olin and Bruno Ganz and some other fine German actors. The mood of the film is gray except of the isolated moments of bliss Michael and Hanna share and the atmosphere is well balanced by the musical score of Nico Muhly. This is a film worth viewing repeatedly, there are that many layers of meaning to glean from this cinematic triumph. Grady Harp, February 10

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More The Reader reviews
Quick Tip by . July 18, 2010
The film that finally gave Kate Winslet her Oscar. Loved the story line and Kate Winslet definitely deserved it...
Quick Tip by . July 16, 2010
A great and understated movie. Kate Winslet was exceptional.
review by . September 22, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
The Reader was quite a surprise in 2008.  It's success is surprising because not only did it suddenly drop down from what seemed like no where, but it went on to become that "Little Oscar Movie That Could" (and couldn't).  Every year there's always one of those kinds of films out there.  In 2008 it was The Reader.  And while The Reader isn't really a bad film--there are even parts that are absorbing as hell--I can't help but admit that there were some moments when it …
Quick Tip by . June 07, 2010
A little weird, but deep.
review by . May 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: David Kross is kind of cute      Cons: Every--last--thing      The Bottom Line: Sitting in a cafe window watching no one walk by for 2 hours is a better way to spend that time. VERY VERY DULL.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. I’ve sat through another award winning, relatively obscure drama that I found extremely boring (I just finished reviewing the boredom of The Hurt Locker). …
review by . December 29, 2009
Warning: this review contains a significant spoiler. If you really have no idea what the movie is about, and don't want to know...read no further. I don't discuss anything beyond what you find in virtually any review about the film...but be warned nonetheless.     THE READER is fabulously well-acted, and thus it is a gripping drama. When it's all said-and-done, though...I was left perplexed as to how to react. I didn't have mixed feelings about it...I literally wasn't sure how …
review by . February 16, 2009
  The Reader is by far the deepest film I have seen all year, maybe even ever and it was truly splendid to watch despite its subject matter. There was great acting on both Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes' parts. There is no doubting why this film is up for Best Picture in this years Academy Awards.    I am really appreciating the fact that so far, the films that are being nominated for best picture this year on not epic films, but just wonderful stories. Both The Reader …
review by . June 14, 2009
The difference between Art and mere Entertainment, is Art causes us to think and feel -- sometimes thoughts and feelings that are not exactly enjoyable. If I have ever seen a movie that is Art, it is "The Reader."    When I undertook my undergraduate studies, I decided to focus on 20th Century European History because I wanted to understand how and why the Holocaust happened. I even had opportunities over the years to talk to a few survivors of the camps and to talk with Germans …
review by . April 16, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
THE READER in the form of Bernard Schlink's masterful book made an emotional impact on those who read it. And for once the book to film version holds nearly as much agony and beauty as the original. The screenplay is by David Hare (whose transformation of 'The Hours' was so worthy) and it captures not only the dialogue of Schlink's novel but fills in the silences with well-constructed added commentary. Stephen Daldry ('The Hours', 'Billy Elliot') directs with great sensitivity to not only the narrative …
review by . April 14, 2009
For most of us our first love is something that always sticks with us, but in the case of Michael Berg (David Kross) his first love had a more lasting impression then most of us would want. At the age of fifteen he entered an affair with 36 year old Hana Schmitz (Kate Winslet in an Oscar-nominated role). The affair only lasted a summer, but it was wonderful to him. The two would have sex and then he would read to her. This was a daily pattern until one day Hana just disappeared. Years later during …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Wiki

Though THE READER may boast the typical pedigree of a Holocaust film--acclaimed actors, a literary source, and an Oscar-baiting end-of-the-year release date--this drama has a significant difference: it focuses on a perpetrator, rather than the victims. Kate Winslet takes on the hefty supporting role of Hanna Schmitz, a woman who has an affair with Michael Berg (German actor David Kross), a 15-year-old boy in 1950s Germany. They spend their brief romance alternately making love and focusing on literature, with Michael reading everything from Chekov to Homer to his lover. Soon, Hanna abruptly disappears, and Michael returns to his normal life. Almost a decade later, Michael is studying law, when he sees Hanna again; she is on trial for her crimes as an S.S. guard during the war. Michael is torn between a desire for justice and his knowledge of a secret that may save Hanna. <br> <br> THE READER makes full use of hindsight and historical perspective. Based on the bestselling novel by Bernhard Schlink, the s...

What is the nature of guilt--and how can the human spirit survive when confronted with deep and horrifying truths?The Reader, a hushed and haunting meditation on these knotty questions, is sorrowful and shocking, yet leavened by a deep love story that is its heart. In postwar Germany, young schoolboy Michael (German actor David Cross) meets and begins a tender romance with the older, mysterious Hanna (Kate Winslet, whose performance is a revelation). The two ...
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Details

Director: Stephen Daldry
Genre: Drama
Release Date: January 9, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: David Hare
DVD Release Date: April 14, 2009
Runtime: 123 minutes
Studio: The Weinstein Company
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