Movie Review: The Reader

Movie Review: The Reader

Most movies that have addressed the Holocaust have been from the victim’s point of view or outlining the heroics of an individual. No film has ever addressed post-war Germany and the complexities of generational relationships. The Reader fills this void. In post-WWII Germany, teen Michael Berg (David Kross) falls ill on his way home from […]

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Most movies that have addressed the Holocaust have been from the victim’s point of view or outlining the heroics of an individual. No film has ever addressed post-war Germany and the complexities of generational relationships. The Reader fills this void.

In post-WWII Germany, teen Michael Berg (David Kross) falls ill on his way home from school and is helped home by Hanna (Kate Winslet), a woman twice his age. Michael recovers and seeks out Hanna to thank her but instead begins a passionate, secretive affair. He discovers Hanna likes to be read to, deepening their physical relationship. Then Hanna mysteriously disappears, leaving Michael confused and heartbroken. Eight years later, Michael is a law student observing Nazi war crime trials and is shocked to find Hanna is one of the defendants. As Hanna’s past is revealed, Michael uncovers a deep secret that will impact both of their lives.

The Reader is a haunting story that spans 37 years. It’s about how one generation comes to terms with the crimes of another. The children born after the war were innocent of the atrocities committed but trapped under the dark cloud that hung over the population. They were ashamed of their parents and neighbours, even if just for tolerating the perpetrators in their midst. One character argues the trials are a diversion because everyone in Germany is guilty. Michael expresses his warring emotions, saying when he tries to understand Hanna’s actions, he feels he should be condemning it; but when he condemns her actions, there is no room for understanding.

Audiences will have very similar conflicting feelings towards Winslet’s character. First exposed to a warm relationship with a lovely woman, it is difficult to reconcile that image with an agent of death. Any hint of empathy or sympathy for Hanna feels wrong.

Kross is exceptional, portraying both the 15-year-old and 23-year-old Michael. His affection towards Hanna is palpable, while his revulsion at her past is equally blatant. Ralph Fiennes portrays the middle-aged Michael, who is remembering his history with Hanna. However, Kross’ characters are more significant to the story, somewhat overshadowing Fiennes’ representation. Winslet is sincere and credible as both the lover and the almost naïve perpetrator. Her performance at the trial is especially moving.

The Reader is based on the award-winning novel by Bernhard Schlink. It was the first German novel to reach number one on The New York Times Bestseller List. Hopefully, this adaptation will bring the tale of truth and reconciliation more attention.


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One reply about Movie Review: The Reader

  • Another example of the double standard which exisit in movies today. There is male frontal nudity but no female frontal nudity. It has become redundant and tiresome.

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