Movie Review: The Reader (2008)

Based on Bernhard Schlink’s 1995 Holocaust novel of the same name, The Reader balances brilliantly the dark, menacing undertones of war (and the ugly things one must do to survive) with the innocent purity of first love. This combination of opposites works incredibly well to produce a controversial film that challenges the very beliefs which make us human.

It all begins with Kate Winslet’s spell-binding performance as Hanna Schmitz, as she seduces a 15-year old Michael Berg (David Kross) in the summer of 1958. This seduction leads to a torrid and secretive romance which abruptly and devastatingly ends at the change of the seasons. The story, told through the unknowing eyes of the heartbroken, love-struck school boy years later when he is an adult (and played by Ralph Fiennes), is a recollection of happenings starting when he bore witness to a trial of several females accused of being SS guards involved with the killing of hundreds of Jewish women during WWII. To his disbelief, he learns that the woman he loved and read to as a young man is one of the accused. However, as the trial progresses Michael comes to know of a closely guarded secret of Hanna’s that could lessen her sentence; but should he reveal it even though she doesn’t want anyone to know of it?

Constantly tampering with the audience’s sympathy and echoing many of the complicated emotional aspects of Joe Wright’s Atonement, The Reader is an unusual Hollywood product. You feel, while watching this film, the pages actually turn as the scenes progress, gradually building up with tension to the unexpected climax. You become attached to the characters and easily identify with their plight throughout the duration of the movie. This is certainly not a strong talent many of today’s film-makers possess, so director Stephen Daldry should be commended for his effort (as should screen writer David Hare for his difficult job of adapting the novel for the screen).

Having similar narrative traits to Stanley Kubrick’s classic A Clockwork Orange, The Reader holds the same uniqueness in being able to tap into the viewer’s mind and debate how far punishments should go in a civilized, “humane” society. If I was to sum-up this understated adaptation in three words, I would use: Romantic; Thought-provoking; Refreshing. It deserves much of the praise the Academy is lauding upon it.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
4 Star Rating: Good


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The Critical Movie Critics

I'm a hopeless romantic and will tend to watch anything in that genre. My favourite shows are Doctor Who, Grey's Anatomy, The Vicar Of Dibley, Charmed and Jane Austen adaptations. Movies I enjoy are Narnia, Indiana Jones, Walk The Line, musicals like Oklahoma and Sound Of Music. X

'Movie Review: The Reader (2008)' have 8 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 2, 2009 @ 9:46 am straight1

    I am telling friends everywhere of this site. Unanimous agreement = positive.
    I tried to get involved with The Reader, but was distracted and cut it off. After reading this post, I will try again. Thought provoking means just that – be prepared to think. . . a vanishing trait within our “pop” culture.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 3, 2009 @ 11:22 am Jenny Stevens

    I have been hearing some really mixed reviews on this movie. Of course most of the negative ones are from those who are opposed to a grown woman being with a teen boy. But they need to remember that this is just a story.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 4, 2009 @ 8:21 am Alex

    Finnaly something different. I am so sick and tired of stupid teenagers in stupid comedies, Transporter type crap movies and so on. I hope it will worth the time.
    The review looks promising :)

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 6, 2009 @ 11:09 am AliMustafa

    This really is something different to what i have seem for the whole year, worth the watch

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 14, 2009 @ 5:07 pm Khan

    The movie is really thought provoking, Kate has done as usuall mind blowing job i just liked her more after watching this movie. She really deserve an Oscar for her performance is this movie.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 4, 2009 @ 7:02 pm Kostya

    It is just a typical German tragedy = a former SS offier and a teenage boy not being able to be together. How romantic! I feel so sorry for them. My relatives would have been sorry too, if they would have made it through Auschwitz

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    July 10, 2009 @ 6:21 pm Winson John

    I saw this movie only because Kate was acting in this film. Acting was as usual brilliant by Kate and deservedly she won Oscar for her great performance. Story was very touching and it shows how lucky we are to read and write when there are many who are deprived of this great privilege because of either poverty or life circumstances.

    Movie ending was sad with death of Kate, which I never expected. Overall it was a great must see movie. My rating 8 out of 10.

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 16, 2010 @ 4:33 pm Malydala

    I really enjoyed this film and it did indeed make the characters very accessible. I feel people should read the book to get the full justice of the story though because many crucial scenes were left out. (I realize you cannot put everything on screen)I feel that the movie overall has a softer edge to it than the novel and that more sympathy is given to Kate’s character Hanna. In the book she is much more cold and I feel it makes the dilemmas that both characters are struggling with that much more complex and deep. Even with that being said, I own the book and the movie both in English and in German and I think they are amazing and a must see/read.
    Happy movie watching.

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