The Reader (2008)

the reader poster 2008 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Different type of Nazi movie

Story sometimes could be better streamlined or clear

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Reader

Studio:   Mirage Enterprises

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   December 12, 2008

MPAA Rating:   R

the reader bathtub kate winslet david kross

Cleanliness is important…

Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) is remembering his life and his first love.  As a boy (David Kross) in Berlin in 1958, Michael was helped by an older woman named Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) when he was getting ill.  The teenage Michael started an illicit affair with Hanna which included short trips, sex, and Michael reading to Hanna.  When the affair ended, Hanna disappeared, but she resurfaced when Michael was in law school in 1966…on trial as a Nazi war criminal.  Michael recalls his battle over his emotions and coming to terms with what Hanna did…and it is all coming back again.

Directed by Stephen Daldry, The Reader is a romantic drama.  It is based on Der Vorleser (The Reader) by Bernhard Schlink which was originally published in 1995.  The film was released to mixed to positive reviews and won the Academy Award for Best Actress (Winslet) with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.

Kate Winslet has always just been on the cusp of getting that Best Actress role and she even joked about upping her chances on Ricky Gervais’ comedy Extras.  While The Reader totally seems like Oscar bait, it does have some interesting moments and situations within the film.

the reader nazi trial kate winslet

What would you have done?

The story is a coming of age story with a teen realizing he never really knew the person he thought was in love with.  It is all about secrets and what can and cannot be talked about.  It also is combined with a genre of German writing called Vergangenheitsbewältigung which is an attempt by German writers to come to terms with the period and culture after the World War II.  The teen romance might really propel the story, but it is Hanna’s character that is the real draw.  The moment she asks “what would you have done” to her judges about the decision to take employment with the Nazi party (which was in control of the government).  It plays with the whole “following orders” idea of the members of the Third Reich which often is brought up…was it entirely just orders or was it also survival?

Kate Winslet is at the top of her game in the movie.  Her Hanna is cold sometimes and warm at points…but entirely complex.  Her unwillingness to admit that she was illiterate in court seems more out of self-punishment than shame, but it is never entirely made clear.  Ralph Fiennes plays a character very typical of his roles as the adult character, but I admire David Kross’s portrayal of the younger version of Fiennes (particularly the lovestruck portion of the film).

the reader kate winslet old makeup

Will I die before I win the Academy Award?

The movie looks solid and is nicely directed.  There is a lot of time jumping and sometimes especially during Hanna’s prison time it is a bit difficult to understand how long has passed (Michael’s daughter goes from kid to adult).  The makeup on Winslet is quite strong as her character ages.

The Reader feels a bit like standard fare in the whole World War II genre, but Hanna’s character inserted into this genre is interesting.  She has will and determination when most people consider the people who became Nazis weak willed and gullible (or sociopaths).  It is a different type of Nazi that helps explain how it could happen…which is a terrify aspect to the story that is danced around at the end of the film in a visit between Michael and the daughter of one of the concentration camp’s survivors.  Who is to blame, who is to be forgiven, and is it really that simple to say?

Related Links:

The 81st Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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