The Reader (2008)

The Reader is the Oscar winning movie based on Bernhard Schlink‘s novel, directed by Stephen Daldry, written by David Hare and starring Kate Winslet, David Kross, Ralph Fiennes and Lena Olin.

Plot:
Michael Berg (David Kross/Ralph Fiennes) is fifteen, when he meets Hanna (Kate Winslet), who is about 20 years his senior. They start having an affair and Hanna insists more and more that Michael reads to her. Their affair lasts for a summer, then Hannah disappears.
Michael goes on to study the law. When one of his teachers (Bruno Ganz) brings him to a trial of concentration camp guards, Michael recognises Hanna as one of the accused.
What ensues is a look at responsibility and guilt, pride and choices.

The movie is very well done, but it’s missing one essential thing: the personal connection. You don’t feel with the characters, you don’t care too much about them. All of the important things speak to your head – and that’s not enough to make for a really compelling film.

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I read the book in school, must have been 7 or 8 years ago. I have to admit that I don’t remember much of the details but I remember that I didn’t like it. The story left me wondering – I didn’t really understand Michael’s problem. I didn’t like a single character and couldn’t relate to anybody. And it was badly written.

Of what I remember of the book, the movie is very accurate and faithful to it. Unfortunately also in the bad parts. Kate Winslet’s glorious performance made Hanna more accessible than she was in the book, but still not a character I actually liked or completely understood.

Stephen Daldry obviously managed to get everything from David Kross, who has developed immensly as an actor since I saw him in Krabat (which is not that long ago). Where in Krabat, you’d hardly remember him, compared to some of the other actors, in The Reader he gave us a look at his actual talent and a very memorable performance.

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The other acting performances were also fine – nice to see some German faces like the aforementioned Bruno Ganz or Alexandra Maria Lara. Some casting decisions I did not understand, though. Why have Lena Olin play Rose and (the older) Ilana Mather? Especially since the Make-up was really bad (that goes also for older Hanna). Do you remember Winona Ryder in Edward Scissorhands? The Make-up there was better than in the Reader.

Another thing that bugged me were the accents. Okay, they decided that they needed to shoot this film in English and with English actors. I can see the reasoning. [Kinda.] But why have them all talk with German accents? Because most of the rest of the cast was German? Why not make the whole cast English then?

I’m seriously bothered by unecessary fake accents. And it’s a trend that’s still prevalent. It should be stopped!

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But apart from the source material, the accents and the make-up, I had nothing to complain about. I’d say I don’t really recommend it, but it’s worth to see the fabulous acting.

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