Reviews

The Reader

4

Secrets and lies, sex and war crimes...

Post-WW2 Germany. Fifteen-year-old Michael (David Kross) is taken ill in the street and aided by Hannah Schmitz (Kate Winslet), a quiet woman twice his age.

Later, fully recovered, he returns and they begin an affair – all penetration and no conversation for Hannah refuses to speak of her past.

He does read to her, however, and the pair grow close. Then she disappears from his life… only to return eight years later in circumstances both unexpected and horrific.

Based on Bernhard Schlink’s 1995 novel, both celebrated and controversial, this thorny drama is everything you’d expect a brought-to-the-screen-by-David-Hare-and-Stephen-Daldry adaptation to be: considered, articulate, intelligent, so selfconsciously classy it borders on glassy.

Yet while the poised, silky visuals work a little too hard to reflect the film’s literary pedigree, there’s no denying the force of the material or the performances.

Winslet, of course, is a given, Hannah being the exact kind of intricate, challenging ‘heroine’ she gravitates towards again and again.

A  working-class German accent? Sure. Fractured psyche conveyed with subtlety, not histrionics? Done. Copious nudity, paedophilia and Nazi war crimes? Er, you bet.

A faultless turn, Winslet’s biggest rival for Best Actress 2009 comes from that blonde playing April Wheeler in Revolutionary Road. But the real surprise is the fact that Winslet’s precise performance is matched every way up by Kross.

The 18-year-old German actor manages to convey love, lust and torment with barely a twitch of his fresh, open face. Together they fashion a relationship of virtue and love, and it’s these early scenes as much as anything that retain viewers’ sympathy when the going gets tough.

Get past the actors speaking and reading in English while the street signs are in German, and you’ll be embroiled in a complex, compelling drama.

Jane Crowther

Verdict:

Pleasingly adult material powered by elegant, muscular performances. A strong adaptation of a slippery novel.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • BarnabyTFV

      Jan 12th 2009, 10:32

      4

      David Hare and Stephen Daldry, the team responsible for the masterpiece "The Hours" now go even darker with this period drama set in post-WWII Germany. In an articulate and compelling screenplay, Hare brings to life the controversial novel by Bernhard Schlink, in which bus conductor Hannah Schmitz (Kate Winslet) starts to romance a 15 year old school boy, Micheal (David Kross). This romance has a strange routine to it. He arrives at her flat, undresses, reads to her - passages from his school books, the classics or holiday guides - then they make love. This grows into a passionate and meaningful sexual relationship between them, as he starts to sacrifice spending time with his friends and family, in order to go to Hannah's apartment for their afternoon routine. This results in some frank, but well handled, sex scenes between the Michael and the woman twice his age. Then, unexpectedly, she disappears. He grows older, hurt by the sudden end to his new-found sexual desires and the love he had for Hannah grows into an ache. This leads him, moody and erratic, to take Law at university, thereby changing his surroundings and associates in order to forget the hurt. However, he does meet Hannah again, but in very different and shocking circumstances. There is no denying that the script's eloquence and intelligence are a gift to the actors, especially Kate Winslet, who builds on such wonderful dialogue with her usual excellence. As further plot revelations are uncovered, it may be hard for viewers to retain some sympathy for Hannah's character, but Winslet gives her such a high degree of humanity and depth it is impossible not to find Hannah Schmitz fascinating if not likable. It may be disconcerting to see the actors speaking in English with German accents, reading from English-language books, while things like street signs, public notices and even calendars remain written in German, but it doesn't spoil the mood of the piece, nor does it reduce its level of integrity or believability.

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    • joker16

      Mar 8th 2009, 15:14

      3

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    • Stevew29

      Mar 21st 2009, 12:45

      3

      Well acted, produced and directed with good locations. There is a good storyline, which is both thought provoking and depressing. I think I enjoyed the film but left wanting to kill myself.

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    • Sheeelashela

      Feb 18th 2011, 8:46

      3

      Still there is room for greater development and I would recommend more emphasis on research and of course it will bring a better situation. Thanks for sharing a nice read. Cheers happy birthday greetings

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    • Fisherman011

      Feb 22nd 2011, 2:25

      3

      I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post Loan Modification Help

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