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The Reader (2008)

A movie directed by Stephen Daldry

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The Nature of Guilt

  • Apr 14, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+5
"The Reader"

The Nature of Guilt

Amos Lassen

I just finished watching the DVD of "The Reader" and once again I have been struck by its power. Here is a film that the survival of the human spirit while facing deep and horrible truths. This is not an easy film to watch. Set in postwar Germany, Michael (David Cross), a German schoolboy meets and starts a tender romance with an older woman, Hannah (Kate Winslet). The two make love but the real intimacy that they share is when Michael reads his school assignments to her. In fact, he delights Hannah by reading just about anything.
When the two meet again years later, Michael (now played by Ralph Fiennes) learns that Hannah may have not involvement in the war effort. He learns this and slowly and with a great deal of horror.
Kate Winslet gives a bravura performance as Hannah but she does not carry the movie alone.
The movie is the story of Michael (Berg). His bond with Hannah is what gets everything moving and they become inseparable until Hannah leaves town unexpectedly and without a word. When he matures and goes to law school, he has the chance to sit in on a trial about war crimes and he is stunned and heartbroken to see Hannah as one of the accused. Even though the film is about the Holocaust, it is not a Holocaust film. Rather it is a film about guilt and redemption and is a morality play that begs for the audience to pass judgment in an understanding way.
During the trial, Michael is torn between his own feelings of right and wrong and between what is ethical and what is not. He is upset over what he has learned about Hannah and what this means for him and his feelings for her. He seems to be incapable of hating her and that would make it easier to forget her.
This is the classic tale of love and loss and how we see things that we do not understand. It is a depressing film with the loss of love and the Holocaust looming over the film. We also watch Hannah be convicted for a crime for which she was not directly responsible. The film raises important issues and it definitely opens our minds.
Kate Winslet deserves the Oscar that she won as she totally inhabits Hannah. Her performance is one that you will not likely forget. She is absolutely brilliant and she is one of the finest actresses in the world today.
The DVD contains some wonderful extras including commentaries and deleted scenes.

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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 . February 21, 2010
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 . 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 …
About the reviewer
Amos Lassen ()
Ranked #210
I am an academic who reivews movies and books of interest to the GLBT and Jewish communities.   I came to Arkansas after having been relocated here due to Hurricane Katrina. I was living in … 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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