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The Reader is drama film based on the 1995 novel of the same title by German author Bernhard Schlink.
Stephen Daldry returns to screen directing since his 2002 film, The Hours.
Release date: 2009 (UK)
Certificate: 15 (contains strong scenes of nude, sex and language)
Length: 2 hours and 4 minutes
The story is based in Berlin, 1958 where 15 year old Michael Berg (Played by newcomer, David Kross) is travelling home but has to get off earlier than his usual stop because he feels unwell and vomits in a nearby alley. A woman, Hana Schmitz (Kate Winslet) sees him, helps him and makes sure he gets home safetly. Michael is diagnosed with scarlett fever, and has no choice but to stay in bed for the next three months, as requested by his doctor. Once, Michael recovers, he goes to visit Hana to say thank you for her help and gives her some flowers. Shortly, after the visit Hana and Michael begin an affair. Hana is curious about what Michael studies at school, and reads to her, every visit he makes.
After the summer is over, Hana is no where to be seen, so Michael travels to her workplace to find where she is, he laters finds out he will never see Hana again, but that all changes seven years later when Michael attends university to study law where he observes a trial, he is stunned that Hana is there, but is unaware of a dark secret that Hana has been hiding all her life.
Hana Schmitz - Kate Winslet
Michael Berg - David Kross
Old Michael Berg - Ralph Fiennes
Bruno Ganz - Professor Rohl
Lena Olin - Rose Mather
Watching this film, I thought it was going to be boring but when I watched it, it has to be one of the best drama films I have seen, some incredible performances, from all the actors, I could see why Kate Winslet won an Oscar for this role, one her best performances yet, and thank goodness she has won an Oscar finally - about time! It is a long film, but its not one of those long films that drag on and feels slow, it has tension, it's very eye-gripping making you stay in your seat. This a drama to be seen! Five out five stars! Just wish it had won more Oscars.
As a young teenage boy, Michael Berg contracts an illness and is helped home by an older woman, Hanna Schmitz. When he recovers, he seeks out Hanna once more and the pair begin an intense physical and emotional relationship, despite their age gap. The romance continues for a time, until Hanna suddenly disappears out of the blue, and Michael is bereft without her. He hears nothing from Hanna until many years later, when as a law student he is observing a trial of German women accused of Holocaust war crimes against the Jews, and one of the women on trial is Hanna. Michael is repulsed, but soon realises that Hanna is harbouring a secret that could clear her name of the things she is alleged to have done, but something he knows she will never reveal. How will life end up for Hanna after the trial, and will Michael be able to live a normal life knowing what he knows about her?
If I am completely honest, I tend not to watch what I call "arty" films like this because I find them quite hard-going of an evening, and I prefer something a little more light-hearted and easy to watch. However, when The Reader was showing on Channel 4 last weekend, it did pique my interest because I really rate Kate Winslet as an actress, and knowing she won an Oscar for her role in this made me even more determined to sit through the whole thing and try to enjoy it. I had an idea what it was about, but wasn't quite prepared for some of the things I watched, and it made me think some people may be shocked by the movie and it certainly won't be everybody's cup of tea. However, I found it to be a very good movie, and certainly Winslet's Oscar was well deserved.
Ralph Fiennes (or as I continually thought of him throughout the film, Liam Neeson, oddly) plays the older Michael Berg, who we only see in the more present day parts of the film. I feel he did a good job in the role, putting on a somewhat muted Germanic accent relatively well, and he was quite interesting to watch on screen, as I felt he portrayed Michael Berg's emotions really well, especially his more conflicted ones towards the end. The wonderful young actor David Kross plays a younger Michael Berg, and does such a fantastic job. He's actually a German actor and had to learn English for this role, and considering this, he really is superb in this role, really getting to grips with the role of both a lovestruck teenager, and later a repulsed and confused law student. He has a wonderful chemistry with Winslet on-screen, and I was truly captivated by his performance, he was excellent.
Kate Winslet plays the German woman, Hanna Schmitz. I found her such an interesting character for a number of reasons. Clearly, because of her role in the SS and what she undertook there, we aren't supposed to like her, and perhaps view her as an abhorrent person. Yet, we don't. In fact, I ended up feeling very sorry for her and really sympathising with her. Her secret that she harbours ends up costing her greatly, yet her shame and wanting to keep it hidden is more important to her than saving herself and revealing the truth. The other women of the SS also on trial use this against her and exploit it, and as such, I felt sorry for Hanna. Winslet puts on a perfect German accent for the film, and I feel she handled all of her situations really well, from her (possibly awkward) scenes with Kross to the court trial and later prison scenes. I found these prison scenes entirely compelling as well, and the prosthetics later worn by Winslet are very realistic.
The subject matter isn't an easy one to watch. Firstly, it covers forbidden love between a young, impressionable boy and much older woman, a story that should be awful to observe yet strangly isn't, then to the hideous war crimes committed in the Holocaust. It isn't easy to hear some of the things that went on as narrated by the characters, yet it's very necessary to the film. Despite the harsh realities of this, it's contrasted well with the story of Michael and Hanna, and I was really hooked to the TV for the entire duration. Apparently, although the book is by a German author, Bernhard Schlink, he was insistent on the film being performed in English, and I don't feel this has hampered it's authenticity at all. The costumes, settings and everything are authentic looking for the time in which they are set, you really believe you are watching something set firstly in 1958, then 1966, and finally "modern day" 1995. The three parts of the film work really well too, setting the story and allowing you to follow it easily.
I really enjoyed watching this film, and think Winslet was fully deserving of the Oscar she won for this performance. She is a very talented actress who puts her all into every performance and I was onyl seeing her as Hanna Schmitz in this film, not as an actress playing her. I haven't read the original book from which this film is adapted, and I'm sure many would argue that the book is better, but I feel that the screenplay is very good, the acting is superb and it's a compulsive if somewhat disturbing film. Despite the nature of the movie, there are some really touching moments, particularly involving Hanna in prison towards the end of the film, and it certainly has you sympathising with a character you wouldn't expect to feel sorry for, and I like that it challenges your emotions like that. A very good film, and one you should definitely try and see.
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Written by David Hare (screenplay) and Bernhard Schlink (book)
Running Time: 124 minutes
Ralph Fiennes ... Michael Berg
David Kross ... Young Michael Berg
Kate Winslet ... Hanna Schmitz
Jeanette Hain ... Brigitte
The Reader is available on DVD for £9.99 (January 2012). You can also buy the paperback version of this story by Bernhard Schlink for £5.72.
Thank you for reading.
The Reader is a 2008 Drama Film starring Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes and David Kross and directed by Stephen Daldry, it is set in post nazi Germany.
The movie opens in 1995 Berlin where lawyer Michael Berg ( Ralph Fiennes ) is preparing breakfast for a woman who spent the night with him, there is tension between him and the woman and its alluded that he is hard to get to know intimately, Michael flashes back to his youth as a 15 year old in post nazi Naustadt Germany, the 15 year old Michael ( David Kross ) gets off a tram because he feels sick, he wanders the streets and finds himself vomiting in the alleyway of an apartment building, 36 Year old Tram conductor Hanna Schmitz ( Kate Winslet ) comes across him and helps him to get home.
For the next three months Michael rests at home after being diagnosed with Scarlett fever, once he's recovered he visits Hanna and takes flowers to her, eventually she seduces him and they begin an affair, soon enough Michael is engrossed in Hanna and falls deeply in love with her, however she seems distant and stern with him sometimes, but mostly she gains pleasure by being read to, Michael begins to not only have sex with Hanna but reads literary works to her.
After they take a cycling trip Hanna learns she will be getting promoted, however it seems as though she may be hiding a secret, and also may have difficulty reading, concerned with her new promotion which involves office work, and concerned with her relationship with Michael, Hanna moves out of her apartment and disappears.
The movie switches to Michael in 1966 where he is a young law student, his professor Dr Rohl ( Bruno Ganz ) teaches them a special seminar which involves them attending a war criminals trial, this one involving numerous women who were SS prison camp guards, accused of neglect and allowing 300 women to burn to death in a church, Michael is shocked to learn that Hanna is one of the women and once again his feelings for her arise, Michael finds himself at first repulsed by her, but soon enough finding a way to help clear her name, however it would involve uncovering a secret that she is too hesitant to allow to be known, which may be her undoing.
The Reader is certainly a powerful movie with some serious subject matter, although you can't help but be shocked at the copious amounts of nudity Kate Winslet displays early on in the movie, I honestly think she spends more time with her clothes off in the first 30 minutes than she does with her clothes on, and while the sex scenes can be described as erotic to a certain degree, its also a little disturbing, considering Michael is meant to be 15 years old at the time.
There is no doubt that there is a high level of acting talent on display within this movie, in particular Kate Winslet is excellent as Hanna and does a great job of portraying a woman with an obvious past, the young David Kross does a great job also and really conveys the naive love that a young boy would experience with a woman like Hanna.
The Readers big problem I see is that its hard to feel sympathy for Hanna late in the movie as quite simply put she was a Nazi Guard, who honestly believed what she was doing was right at the time and was responsible for the deaths of numerous inmates.
Its certainly a powerful movie but there is a flood of holocaust movies out there and most seem to have the same message, however if you enjoy a naked Kate Winslet you can't go far wrong !! But its worth a watch for sure, i'm just not sure how many times you'll want to watch it again.
FILM ONLY REVIEW
In Germany just after the war a young boy called Michael gets ill on his way home from school fortunately he gets help from a lady. It turns out that Michael had Scarlet fever but when he is recovered he goes to find this woman to thank her. The woman is called Hanna and she befriend Michael and soon they start an love affair. Michael is loving spending time with Hanna but soon she demands that he reads to her before they have sex. The relationship goes on for some months but when Michael goes to visit her one day she has vanished.
It is later that Michael is to find Hanna but under what circumstances is it and just how will this affect his feeling for her over their relationship a decade previously?
I was quite looking forward to watching this film as the trailers made it out to be a good film, I have to say both me and hubby felt slightly let down by it, the first half of the film was very slow and very uneventful. Luckily the story did seem to pick up slightly towards the second half and we did start to enjoy it more. I also found the addition of seeing Michael in the present and viewing his flashbacks to be slightly off putting as they were only happening one n a while and if it was going to be a flash back film then we should have had more of the present day Michael to make it more consistent but as it was I found them to be very off putting and t did at times make the story hard to follow.
The storyline was good but I did find it very weird at the beginning of the film especially with the age difference of the lead character, I have nothing against age differences as my hubby is 10 years older than me but as we both agreed the fact he was still a 15 year old school boy made this seem a little weird and dirty at times. The second half of the story was much better and I enjoyed all of the revelations and found that it showed the character off in a different light and I enjoyed seeing Michael being older and wiser as it made his character more credible and easier to watch.
The role of young Michael was played by David Kross and he gave his all to the performance. I believed in his character and felt sorry for him the way he was slightly manipulated and used by Hanna. He showed a lot of emotions and courage throughout the film but the slightly older Michael was much easier to watch. I found he grew and got a lot stronger thought-out the film and I did feel slightly uncomfortable watching him during the sex scenes due to the age he was supposed to have been. He did perform them all very well considering he is only young and showed that he is a very talented actor. There seemed to be a false chemistry between the role of Michael and Hannah and I felt he was giving a lot more than she was. Hanna was played by Kate Winslet and she also did a good job in her role but there was just something about her which put me off the character slightly. Her acting was good and she gave a good German accent but the over the top sex scenes and the sheer amount of them were not necessary and showed her off in a bad light. She came across as using Michael and playing to his vulnerable side and this did put me off her. I warmed to her slightly towards the second half of the film despite what he were finding out about her as it made what had happened in the first half of the film easier to understand.
We did get some other very good actors in the film and the next main role was by Ralph Fiennes, he played the current old Michael and I enjoyed the small part he had. He appeared throughout the film as we were supposed to be seeing his memories and flash backs but the part he played at the end of the film was very good and quite moving.
The film was mainly set in German just after the war and we did move on a decade but this was not till the second half of the film. The costumes were all very good and suited the year of the film. I did actually enjoy seeing the old way of life and how basic it all was. The sets and props were all very good and believable. We did get some special effects and they fitted in effortlessly and made for some good viewing. The music throughout the film as good and very suitable. It helped to tell the story and get the right emotions.
As this is a film only review there are no bonus features to speak about. The running time of the film is 124 minutes and I did find this was overly long, I think the first half of the film could have been condensed and we would not have lost anything from the overall storyline. The film has a 15 certificate and I definitely agree with this as there are a lot of sex scenes and nudity and some of the topics revealed later in the film are not for the younger viewer to be hearing about.
I wish I could give this film more than 3 stars but unfortunately I cant. I felt slightly let down by the film as the story was very slow but the acting is good and the story s quite topical. I would advise watching this film but wait for it to come on the TV, it is not one to buy or waste money on at all.
This is a film set in Post WWII Germany, based on the 1995 book by Bernard Schlink. It is based on the events of a love affair between a 15 year old boy, played by David Kross, and a 36 year old woman, played by Kate Winslet.
The film begins with the boy, now a grown man (Ralph Fiennes) having breakfast and a short chat with a woman who has evidently spent the night with him. Then we flash back to the man as a boy in Post War Germany. He is sick and a woman comes to help him. When he goes back to thank the woman, their love affair begins. It is a short love affair that lasts only a summer but it evidently has a big impact on the young adolescent. We rejoins him several years later when he finds out that the woman was an SS guard during the war and served for a time in Auschwitz. We see Kross attend the trail of the woman and 5 other female guards.
This film deals with the issue of generations subsequent to the WWII generation, understanding and dealing with the guilt of the Holocaust. I really enjoyed the film, as I did the book, and thought that both Winslet and Kross acted their parts very well and really made you believe in the characters.
It's a great story and an enjoyable, unpredictable watch.
Movie: The Reader
Running time: 124 minutes
Director: Stephen Daldry
Country: United States
Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz
Ralph Fiennes as Michael Berg (adult)
David Kross as Michael Berg (child)
Jeanette Hain as Brigitte
The story is about Michael Berg and starts in the year 1995 were he looks back to the year 1958. He was coming back from school with the tram, but doesn't feel well and decides to go off but then he has to throw up on the middle of the street. This woman Hanna Schmits sees him and she takes him with her to her house, so he can wash him self and get some breathe. He goes home, but it takes him three months to get better and decides to go back to Hanna to thank her for her help. At first she doesn't like it and is very distance, but then they start a affaire, even that she's much older. They meet each other after his school at her house. Here he also starts to read for her these old classic books. Hanna still remains unhappy and feels quilty about the affaire that she's suddenly gone. Michael continues his life and goes to university to study law, but still wonders about why Hanna suddeny left. When he goes to court to watch a case about the Nazi period he suddenly sees Hanna ! But she is standing for trial on the murder of 300 Jewish women and she's the main suspect ! He can't believe his eyes, is she really responsible for this ?
The acting is really good in this movie. You got the wonderful kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz. Of course Kate broke trough with the movie Titanic and The Holliday, but this time she plays a totally different part that I'm used from her. She plays a middle ages woman with aparantly a dark past. You see that something has happend to her in her life and that see still caries it around with her. You can tell by the whole way is moves and the way she lifes. It all feels very heavy and Micheal is the only one who give her some join in her life, but even there she feels quilty about. Micheal is much younger then herself. The younger Micheal is being played by David Kross and the adul Micheal by Ralp Fiennes. I always think it must be difficult to find two people playing one part and they have to look alike. I think they did a pretty good job. They both look a like and i really liked their perfomances. Very believable especially when Micheal sees Hanna in court.
Before I saw the movie I wasn't even aware of the nudescenes with Kate Winslet in this movie, so was very surpised to see them. But the nudescenes are beautifully done and very artistic. The reader is a very dramatic movie thats been told very well. You learn these two people who appear to be falling in love with each other, but it's not only the age that stands between them. During a great part of the movie you wonder why Hanna is the way she is and what happened to her in her life, because you can tell she had a difficult life. I love the way they did this. It's quite shocking the moment you realise what she has been hiding, but the movie is more about how Micheal is dealing with it. Very beautiful good drama movie.
I watched the film The Reader the other afternoon on Sky so this is only about the film not the actual dvd.
The story is about a young German boy called Michael Berg who has an affair with an older woman. The woman's name is Hanna Schmitz and she likes Michael to read books to her before they go about their business.
Ten years later Michael comes across her again when he is visiting a law court with his law studies class and finds her on trial for Nazi war crimes against the Jews.
I thought the film was really well done, it was very moving and emotional without being too over the top. Kate Winslet was really good in the part of Hanna, she came over as genuine in her role as the woman who started to love the young boy she was bedding. Her part in the courtroom was also good where you could see she was trying to keep a secret from everyone.
The young boy was played by David Kross and I thought he was brilliant at the part. He started off being this young boy who was besotted and proud to be seeing this older woman and then grew up before your eyes into the young man watching her trial.
Ralph Fiennes played Michael as an older man, this was shown throughout the film where it flashed forward and back in time. I thought he played the role nicely with lots of emotion and making the character very gentle and caring.
The scenes were shot well, most of them being in the court room or in her small home, some back in the home of the young boys family where he was trying hard not to let them see how excited he was inside.
The film is rated a 15 in the UK and was directed by Stephen Daldry. It runs for 124 minutes.
The Reader is a 2008 film starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes. It is a beautiful story of lust, enduring love and secrets. It is based on the 1995 German novel of the same name by Bernhard Schlink
The story is set in post Nazi Germany. Kate Winslet plays a lady called Hanna Schmitz. A chance meeting with a young boy, Michael Berg sees her embarking on a passionate affair with him that will change their lives forever. It's never exactly clear why she starts sleeping with him, perhaps she is lonely but she also comes across as someone who wants some control in her life and to be in charge of something and this is the way she can be in control. The love scenes are quite graphic so I can understand why this film has been rated 15. Kate does what she does best in films and gets naked, quite a bit and we do see lots of shots of her boobs. Kate was great in this film though. She won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, BAFTA Award for Best Actress, Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress and the Academy Award for Best Actress at the 81st Academy Awards for her role in the film.
The boy, played by David Kross also is naked quite a bit too. I thought he was probably the star of the movie for me. He came across as a shy, scared boy in the beginning who grew up to become quite confident with himself.
It's hard to give some of my opinions on the film as this will give away I think the most important aspect of the film and will explain in my opinion why everything happens. Hanna leaves at a certain point in the film and does not tell Michael that she is going or does not leave him any forwarding address. He is heartbroken but manages to carry on with his life and move on, never really forgetting her though. However, years later he attends a trial as part of his law degree and finds that Hanna is one of the defendants in the war crimes trial stemming from her actions as a guard at a Nazi concentration camp in the later years of World War II. Michael realizes that Hanna is keeping a personal secret she believes is worse than her Nazi past -- a secret which, if revealed, could help her at the trial. It's this secret I don't want to reveal but it was one that I guessed a while into the film.
I wasn't sure what my opinion of Hanna was. I think the way that she was portrayed in the beginning made us like her. Firstly I think part of this was due to the fact that it was Kate Winslet and as most of her characters are likeable I think in the beginning we just go with the opinion that she is a nice lady. Then when we come to the trial we still hold that respect for her even though she might have done some awful things but was that all part of her upbringing and previous life and was she really just misunderstood and just doing a job for which she was being paid. If she can love and show love to humans in the beginning of the movie then surely she is not a bad lady and we have some remorse for her. But, having said that she has committed some awful, unspeakable acts at the camp and one cannot view these people as having any sort of conscious at all. Also, when she begins the affair with Michael he is only 15 and it is definitely her that initiates it and so you could technically call it child abuse. Just because it is shown in an arty way does not make it right or acceptable.
The film definitely brings up lots of talking points and I like that about it as it makes you think of the storyline for a long while afterwards and questions your thoughts on the subject matter.
The DVD runs for approximately 118 minutes and like I've said above is rated 15. Deleted scenes include the Making of the Reader and a conversation with Kate Winslet about how they aged Hanna Schmidt in the movie.
This 2008 movie was directed by Stephen Daldry and has Kate Winslett (Hanna Schmitz) and Ralph Fiennes (Michael Berg) and David Kross as the young Michael Berg.
I had wanted to see this movie for a while so was pleased to see it was showing on Sky movies.
The movie begins in post world war two Germany and sees 15 year old Michael Berg who is on his way home from school.
When he feels ill on the bus he gets off and is helped by a ticket lady who realises he is ill and takes him home.
Michael is diagnosed with scarlet fever and is bed ridden for 3 months, when he is better he seeks out Hanna to thank her for helping him and soon starts to obsess about her.
When he gets covered in coal dust while helping her she tells him to get in the bath.
Now this is where it gets a bit strange for me, when he gets out of the bath she is standing naked with a towel to dry him (wot a weirdo)
After sex she gets him to read to her, this affair goes on through the Summer but Hanna dissapears without telling Michael leaving him heartbroken.
Yes she has a secret she was a member of the SS during the war and was responsible for the deaths of many prisoners.
Years later Michael is a law student and happens to be attending a case when he realises one of the defendants is his lost love Hanna.
When she is sent to prison for twenty years he sends her books he has recorded onto tape to comfort her.
You see she cannot read or write but is accused of filling in a form that tells of a terrible accident involving prisoners, as she is ashamed to admit to this she instead takes the prison sentance (totaly unbelievable)
I cannot say how strange and dissapointing this film is along with its unbelievable story line I mean why dosent Michael tell the court she cant read.
Currently available from Amazon U.K for £5.38 or watch it on Sky movies if I was you.
Review of Film Only
Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) is a dethatched man. Divorced but the father of a daughter he doesn't see enough of, he reflects upon his past. At 15 years old (David Kross) he was struck down by scarlet fever, but rescued by a 36 year old tram conductor called Hanna (Kate Winslet). After a lengthy recovery period he tracks down his rescuer and they begin a secret affair. Hanna is a very mysterious woman who, seeing that Michael is studying classic literature, asks that he read to her before they have sex. Despite Hanna's cold manner and Michael's childlike inexperience, the relationship begins to further develop. Then one day, upon hearing she is to be promoted, Hanna abruptly leaves her apartment without saying a word to Michael. Years later as an undergraduate and whilst attending a trial as part of a special seminar held by a concentration camp survivor, Michael attends a trial for Auschwitz guards who presided over several atrocities at the camp. One particular atrocity involved the deaths of 300 prisoners who were locked into a burning church by the guards. One guard is singled out as the ringleader of this particular crime. Michael is shocked to see that this guard is none other than his mysterious Hanna...
If you told me that "The Reader" swept the 2009 Oscars I wouldn't have been surprised. It didn't despite being nominated in some of the top categories. In the end only Kate Winslet nabbed her long overdue gold, as she had done at all the other major festivals, but more on that later.
Back to the film proper and I have to say that not only does it seem to be the sort of feature destined to clean up at such shows, but it is actually very good. "The Reader" is based on a 1995 German novel by Bernhard Schlink and provides an interesting situation for filmmakers. It is an English speaking film made in collaboration with Germany and America distributed by the Weinstein Company. The result is an English speaking picture filmed in Germany, but given the exposure of offered by Hollywood. The film only received a limited release, but this type of picture was never destined to be an opponent for "The Day the Earth Stood Still", which was released on the same day. Its rivals were more obviously other thought-provoking dramas such as "Doubt", which came out a couple of days later. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was also another obvious rival. It came out in the same month too. However, it is here where we can see the superiority of "The Reader" of this particular film. Although a good movie, Benjamin Button doesn't really prompt a tremendous amount of thought, at least not on subjects that really challenge the viewer. I would even go as far as saying that the make-up effects performed on Kate Winslet rival the visual effects in Benjamin Button, which nabbed its Oscar for this particular area.
The first half of "The Reader" comes across like a European film. In this sense it is very honourable to the structure and spirit of Schlink's book. However, it has been accused of eroticizing the serious issues it covers and even creating a type of perversion. What these critics are referring to, of course, is the fact that Kate Winslet spends a good part of this first half completely naked and fulfilling a 15 year old boy's fantasy. Shown as a touching intimate relationship, it is uncomfortable to acknowledge that this is actually a positive depiction of an ex-Auschwitz camp guard committing paedophilia. I don't think this shakes the film's moral core. The scenes may be sentimental, but they are far from pornographic in their execution and didn't strike me as disturbing.
Stephen Daldry's direction with these scenes - and indeed the rest of the film - should be acknowledged. Daldry, like Winslet, is another criminally overlooked talent. As those of you are familiar with my reviews might know, I have a soft spot for works based on plays or that have gone into inspire plays. It is then not surprising to me that Daldry's background is in theatre. A good theatre director, especially one that specializes in straight drama, has a special relationship with his actors and is usually perfect for character-driven works, which "The Reader" is. He keeps scenes moving at the right pace throughout the film and even in places that an inferior director might make ponderous, something that is easy to do with an adaptation of a novel that doesn't have a great deal of action throughout.
A far more direct criticism of both the book and film is that it sympathizes with the perpetrators of one of history's most diabolical evils and downplays the relevance of the holocaust. As with other films such as "Dead Man Walking" and "The Woodsman" this type of criticism really misses the point. Like these films, the horrors of Hanna's actions are never mitigated. She is not put across as a warm character, but rather a person with someone disturbing personality traits and a corrupt sense of values. What the film does that the others I have mentioned also do, is show humanity in all its guises. This includes being honest about human relationships. It refuses to acknowledge that everyone involved in atrocities are one dimensional monsters, a view that although might sit nicely with our clear cut morals but doesn't help explain anything. People who wish to see this sort of thing in history or even works of historical fiction retard our ability to understand. They remind me of those who justify the revision of history for "the good of the cause".
What will upset these critics even more is the sense of apathy that the film reflects on the holocaust as time moves on. Even the unforgiving daughter of a survivor admits that nothing of value came out of the camps. On that note I would say that the great Jewish philosopher, holocaust survivor and author of "Man's Search for Meaning", Viktor Frankl, would disagree. Nevertheless, the point is that this piece of terrible history that has dominated the German national psyche for the rest of the 20th century is becoming more and more detached from the living. "The Reader" explores this without casting judgment, but prompts thought and reflection.
Overall this we have the metaphor of reading and, more specifically, reading allowed. "Der Vorleser", the original name for Schlink's novel, actually implies "reading allowed" as opposed to just reading. Hanna's journey goes from being a detached illiterate person who only receives information to a person who can read and therefore immerse herself in the classics she enjoyed listening to. Likewise the horrors of the holocaust and the situations Germans found themselves in during the time that the Nazis were in power are juxtaposed with the feelings of those who weren't there.
Aside from Kate Winslet's performance as Hanna throughout the picture, including having to endure over seven hours of prosthetics to show her aging, the film also stars Ralph Fiennes playing the older Michael Berg and German actor David Kross as his younger counterpart. Fiennes is as reliable as ever putting in a reserved performance as the reflective Berg and Kross shows serious potential throughout his performance. Given the restrictions of the film being English-speaking yet based in Germany and on a German novel, it is always awkward to decide how to handle dialogue. Having all the actors speak in a German accent often only works in the tongue-in-cheek manner seen in "The Shadow of the Vampire", but here it almost feels like we are watching a German film that for some reason we can hear in English. It's quite a skill and interesting something that Schlink, the book's author, insisted upon, believing the issues deserved a wider audience.
Incidentally being a big follower of Ricky Gervais's work I guess I couldn't leave this review without my comment on his comical prediction that came true. For those who are not aware of this prophetic example of this "many a true things spoken in jest" moment, I will explain and at the same time try to put down a rather disturbing racist conspiracy theory at the same time. In episode three of his series, "Extras", Kate Winslet, playing a self-parody, comes back with a cynical ulterior motive when she is commended on raising awareness of the holocaust:
"My god, I'm not really doing it for that. I don't think we really need another film about the Holocaust, do we? It's like, how many have there been? We get it! It was grim! Move on! No, I'm doing it because I've noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust: guaranteed Oscar. I've been nominated for four. Never won! The whole world is going, 'Why hasn't Winslet won one?' That's it. That's why I'm doing it. Schindler's bloody List. The Pianist. Oscars coming out of their ass!""
Kate Winslet's win this time around seemed to prove Gervais's point exactly and he ribbed her about it publically at the Golden Globes Awards, "I told you, do a Holocaust movie and the awards come, didn't I?" As is the nature of Gervais's humour, the point ridicules Hollywood sentimentality and intentionally shocks by using a taboo subject. Some have interpreted the original lines to be inferring to the great Jewish conspiracy that is supposedly behind everything, but this is highly unlikely. Gervais is known as a strong rational sceptic, which one would assume would deter him from anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and besides given the criticism this film and the novel it was based on has incurred it is not the sort of holocaust film that would be approved of by the supposed "Elders of Zion".
The Reader is a film adaptation starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes and is an adaptation of a book written by Bernhard Schlink. The book was my second review placed on DooYoo and I gave it 4 stars as I enjoyed it but didn't think it was worth all the praise given too it. This is the adaption of that rather thin novel.
The film starts in 1995 where Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) gives a one night stand a rather awkward breakfast. The feeling in the room is rather chilly and instantly places the character in the place of a distant German, Michael is in his fifties and once the girl has gone looks out of his London home to see a bus go past and is instantly pulled back to 1958.
In 1958 Michael (David Kross) is a teenage boy who on the way home feels ill and is helped by a women in her thirties called Hannah, Michael is diagnosed with scarlet fever and is bed ridden for many months. After recovering he goes around to the womans apartment and a love story begins. Hannah (Kate Winslet) is a bus conductor and loves to hear michael read to her between regular baths and sex sessions. Everything is very quiet, discrete with the pair showing emotions through contorted faces and there is few words other than the books Michael reads to Hannah. Hannah mysteriously vanishes and Michael goes on with his life.
Whilst at college Michael is taken to a trial of concentration guards and finds with a shock that Hannah was a guard at a concentration in which 300 jews were burnt alive. The news shocks him and when the trial ends he keeps in touch via letter and reading her books.
The story then moves to 1988 and the story of Michael and Hannah reaches a climax.
This is a Hollywood movie designed for adult audiences with muted lighting, minimal sets and terse controlled dialogue. This is also a movie aiming at winning awards at the awards ceremonies it makes use of the films material to make a tight tense film but a film about something emotional is strangely devoid of it.
Kate Winslet looks lovely through out this film from the women seducing the younger man in her bus conductor guise to the grey wrinkled specimen we discover at the end of the film. Through out she shows lots of leg, boob and ass and whilst in her 30's and a mother she has lost none of her attractiveness. She's stern clipped and a little authoritarian and you can see why a teenage boy might be sexually excited by her, her accent is German tinged English.
Ralph Fiennes gives a typically tight and tense performance as the older Michael, he isn't one to display emotion so the performance is one of an older man reliving a past which he feels slightly awkward about. It is hard to reconcile the older michael with the willful impulsive younger Michael but the film tries to tie in the effects of the past on the changes in the future.
This is a film about the Holocaust but one looking at the event from a slightly different angle, perhaps its the first mainstream film to try and look at the Holocaust not from the viewpoint of those who experienced it but from the viewpoint of the next generation. Here we are shows all about the effects the event had not only on the people living in the war but a man who takes the effects with him in a secondary nature all the way through his life until the film ends in 1995. Michael is affected intimitely by the holocause not because he's jewish, a guard, a civilian at the time but simply because he fell in love with a woman who was a guard at a concentration camp.
I've tried to work out several of the books and films questions, one is why does Hannah do what she does? Should we be sympathetic or condemning? Both and neither who knows?
and finally who is the The Reader, as I said I've read the book and watched the film and I'm still not sure who it is. Is it Hannah for learning to read through Michaels tapes? or is Michael reading to Hannah in bed either before or after they have sex? or is it a more subtle title to do with the trial of Hannah and why she was convicted? I'm curious what other people think.
My final thoughts are that this is a very true adaptation of a fine novel, the novel isn't the longest but they manage to get a two hour film out of it, because the book is so short anyone whose read it will find virtually every scene in the book to be found in the film. This is a virtue and a slight problem as a viewer whose read the book will know exactly whats going to happen and as the film adheres so closely to the book you do have a tendency to find your mind wandering at times.
A final point is over the accents in the film, the film is shot totally in English but the characters all have noticeable German accents. Now either make the film in German with subtitles or make the film in English, why does the film insult our intelligence by feeling the need to make the actors do the lines in English with a German accent? We can work out that the film is set in Germany and we can work out that the characters would talk in German, so if they transplant English into that setting than just do it without the accents or does everyone in Berlin speak German with an English accent?
In The Reader Kate Winslet delivers an oscar winning performance in which she starred alongside Ralph Fiennes. She plays Hanna Schmitz, a Berlin tram conductor who meets and falls in love with Michael Berg played in the younger version by David Kross and in the later years by Fiennes. At the time the two fall in love Michael is only 15 years old and Hanna is a lot older which naturally causes a scandal.
The film centres on the older Michael, who became a lawyer reflecting back on his life in the period just before the east and western parts of Berlin were reunited when the Berlin Wall was pulled down. The film skips through different time period from their first encounter and the start of their affair up until the point she disappears and then on to the mid sixties when the war crimes are being held and Michael is attending them as part of his studies only to find Hanna standing in the dock accused of being a guard at a camp.
This is a moving drama that has a wonderful plot and some fine performances. It is a powerful film with some very adult themes as it examines the very personal side of the trials and the mood of the German nation at the time having to face up to the crimes of the previous and current generation in many cases.
There is quite a lot of sexual content in the film including the sex scenes between Hanna and the young Michael however it is tastefully done even if the subject matter is rather sordid.
Winslet is superb in the lead role alongside Fiennes, she presents a stern exterior and hides her emotions well however she also manages to get the personality of her character across and the passion that she hides behind a solemn secretive outer persona. It is a stirring performance and little surprise that she picked up an award.
Definitely a film I would recommend as it it a fascinating story line with some nice plot twists in it plus you can pick it up for less than a fiver on Amazon.
Thoughtful and intelligent this is a story about a middle aged lady ( Kate Winslet) in Germany, post-world war II who helps out a teenager when he seems troubled and is half-collapsing in an allleyway. As thanks for this gesture he goes round to her flat and out of turn certain glances are made and well lets just say human chemistry takes over and a relationship develops between them. The events that unfold though given the sensitive political nature of the time, shape what eventually occurs between them. Its bad enough that there is 20 years between but this extra factor ,akes things even harder.
I won't say any more about the plot for fear of spoling it, but Winslet is excellent in this movie playing someone who seems emotionally stunted and almost numb in parts. She is also controlling but in a quiet kind way. Like a trampled upon pariah she gives off this air of being detached and even robotic with moments of emotion bursting through a dark corridor, ever so slightly. David Cross performs well too as the teenager who is the object of her affections and Ralph Fiennes weighs in with an equally solid performance as this young man grown up.
This film is challenging because it makes you think about the nature of morality and how people are judged post-crime. Whilst motives are questioned in this film of a ceratin characters behaviour, how we can view a person in different contexts make you think. The fact that a person can commit acts of such abomination supposedly in a war situation for example potentially does not negate her status as a human being and take away from their capacity to show love. At the same time it also makes one think about whether people in power or under the power of others have a choice in the way that they behave.
I can see why Winslet won the oscar for this and I enjoyed this a lot. Even though its slow-moving it still captures the attention and is one I might find hard to watch again unless i feel my brain is completely in gear.
***SPOILER ALERT*** - This review may contain spoilers so if you haven't seen the film yet, read it at your own risk!
The Reader is an Oscar-winning film starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes and is based on the book of the same name by Bernhard Schlink. It was directed by Stephen Daldry who also directed Billy Elliot and The Hours.
In the film, Kate Winslet stars as Hanna Schmitz and David Kross as the young Michael Berg. Hanna helps Michael get home when she finds him seriously ill in the street, and when he recovers from Scarlet Fever 3 months later he goes to see her in order to thank her and they become lovers. At this time, Hanna is 36 and Michael is just 15.
As well as making love (which there is a lot of in this film, so if you are put off by nudity it's not for you), Michael reads to Hanna as she loves books but, as slowly becomes apparent, she cannot read herself. When Hanna realises that Michael is losing interest in her, she moves out of her apartment and disappears.
Eight years later when Michael is a law student, he attends the trial of six women who are accused of Nazi war crimes - primarily of letting Auschwitz detainees die during a fire in a church instead of unlocking the church doors so the detainees could get free and run the risk of them escaping. Michael is shocked to see that one of these accused women is Hanna.
When the other five women gang up on Hanna, saying that she wrote the report of the fire and that she was the ringleader, Michael knows that since she is illiterate the other women must be lying. Hanna doesn't want to admit to the court that she cannot write, so instead she claims to have written the report. For this she is sentenced to life in prison and Michael does nothing to intervene.
Instead, years later, the older Michael Berg, now played by Ralph Fiennes, decides to read to Hanna as he did years ago when they were lovers. He spends many, many hours recording himself reading books onto tapes and then sends the tapes to her along with a tape player.
The overwhelming theme of this movie is, I believe, guilt and blame. Who is to blame for what happened at Auschwitz when there were 8,000 people working there?
In this movie, everyone is trying to place the blame for everything on someone else - everyone, that is, except for Hanna. She is the only one who claims responsibility for her actions, at one point banging her fist on the table in the courtroom saying they were responsible for those detainees and couldn't let them escape. It is this double meaning of the word "responsible" that to me is the most telling part of the film. To Hanna, it means she was doing her duty, but to us it means that she was to blame.
Others in the film who are not as naive as Hanna know very well what they are doing when they try to deflect the attention from themselves - the five other women when they wrongly accuse Hanna of being the ringleader, for example. And even Michael himself when he has a great deal of difficulty admitting to anyone his connection with Hanna.
Then there is the greater question of why these trials have become the focal point of post-war recriminations in German society. It seems clear that this finger-pointing is at least in part a way of avoiding taking the blame for the way the vast majority of members of that society became carried away by the sort of herd mentality that brought the Nazis to power and corroborated in their crimes. As a fellow member of Berg's law-school class points out, it's not a question of what we knew and didn't know. It's a question of how could we have let something like this happen?
To me the meaning of this film is that if it isn't so clear cut to single out one person as responsible for the evil that was done in a certain time or place, it means that we must all be responsible and the morally right thing to do is to admit that. It's interesting that the writer of the book, Bernhard Schlink, insisted that the movie adaptation be done in English. Perhaps this is to underline the universality of the theme? After all, this sort of behavior, tragically, has not been limited to Nazi Germany. There has been genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Cambodia - the list is a long one.
All of the actors in this film do a remarkable job and it is no wonder that Winslet won an Oscar for her performance. She is utterly believable as Hanna, and her German accent is also true to life.
An excellent film that really makes you think. Unlike films such as Schindler's List, there is no hero in this movie. I believe this is much closer to reality and makes you think about how most seemingly normal, everyday people were able to become monsters simply by making the decisions that seemed right to them at the time, doing what they are told and what society expected of them, and not considering the consequences of their actions.
So 'The Reader', and for Kate Winslet her first Oscar, this, her sixth nomination (she was the youngest ever to get two nominations at just 22 years old...), Britain's finest female actress for a long time delivering another excellent performance here. Kate did have a foot up in the business, the classic English rose born into a family of thespians, but for me she is one of those actresses that can pretty much do any role on screen and the fact she doesn't take herself too seriously alongside her ironic sense of humour it makes that possible and so extremely flexible on screen. She's not that stuck up hat stand that is Keira Knightly, a brilliant goal post in Bend it Like Beckham, of course.
The Reader is the latest in a long line of serious and worthy holocaust related movies bought out at Oscars time over the years, our Kate, of course, memorably joking on Ricky Gervais`s enjoyable TV series 'Extras' that if you want an Oscar then you have to 'play a mental or do a Holocaust movie", and how right she was. Jewish run Hollywood has obvious reasons to keep that terrible era in Europe's history alive and so say all of us, but it is an advantage this time of year to make a good movie about the persecution of the Jews, which this clearly is. Interestingly Holocaust education groups denounced the film as "the worst Holocaust film ever made" and a "repellent form of revisionism", claiming that it portrays Hanna Schmitzs Nazi youth character too sympathetically, because of the relevance of the films big reveal and twist in the plot.
There will never be another Shindlers List but this was a good effort by what is essentially a British movie-cast and crew-Ralph Fiennes back on form doing his ice cold Englishman thing, this bagging four other Oscar nominations, including best director for Stephen Daldry. Sadly producers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella both died before they could finally see Kate get her well deserved gong. How could you not like and be proud of our Katie.
Ralph Fiennes ... Michael Berg
Kate Winslet ... Hanna Schmitz
Jeanette Hain ... Brigitte
David Kross ... Young Michael Berg
Kate Winslet ... Hanna Schmitz
Susanne Lothar ... Carla Berg
Alissa Wilms ... Emily Berg
Florian Bartholomäi ... Thomas Berg
Friederike Becht ... Angela Berg
Matthias Habich ... Peter Berg
We meet Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes), a German lawyer (presumably Jewish although its never made clear), wandering through the streets of Berlin in a world of his own, strong memories flashing back as an old tram rattles past him. It's just before the Wall came down and he has an appointment to see someone, someone very special to him, the coming meeting laden with guilt that's triggering those memories.
Michael was born in Berlin and it is where he met and then fell in love with an older German woman, working-class tram conductor Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslett), but Michael just 15 at the time, all very illicit, but far more taboo more than he ever realised at the time as the story unfolds.
Young Michael (David Kross) falls ill on a tram, finding an alleyway to puke in, where he is helped by and attractive thirty something frauline, Schmitz. He is diagnosed with Scarlet Fever by the doctor back home and spends three months in bed. But at that encounter with Hannah there was a connection, enough for him to return with flowers to thank her. Hannah is cold and aloof, for reasons we do not know yet, but soon seduces the innocent and handsome blue-eyed blonde boy after bathing his smooth skin and athletic torso in her rusty bath (Oooh Matron!). One afternoon visit turns into three and soon they are lovers, sharing conversation and emotions, passion and confessions, Hannah asking Michael to read literature to her before sex as comforting foreplay, before he scurries off home with his school bag. But one day he goes to her apartment and its empty of her and her possessions, no note to say why and where she may be, breaking Michaels heart.
We then flash forward to 1966, the war trials raging in Germany, Michael studying law at Berlin University, part of the course having to go to the trials and witness supreme post war German law and justice in action. And its here he will see Hannah again, she one of the accused, named as a concentration guard and sitting in the dock, Michael shocked to the core that he had been sleeping with a woman that had previously picked random Jews for the gas chamber. But as the trial progresses Michael realises that a secret could save her from life in prison, or far worse, and she may not be as sadistic as she seems. But what to do?
For me The Reader is about Germany's guilt and shame over the Holocaust and the concession of absolute power soon after to rid them of that shame, trying to shift the blame on to as few people as possible through the war trials to smooth modern Germanys place in the world, to be reborn pure if you like. It's also a quite erotic film, Winsletts seduction of Michael when she cleans his naked innocent body in the bath probably in middle-caged women's top three sexual fantasies, paedophilia aside of course. Taboo is always sexy. So aware was director Stephen Daldry of the possibility of the sexual acts in the film being illegal he waited until young David Krass 18th birthday to shoot the sexy nude scenes with Kate. Kate, of course isn't so sexy in those scenes, the whole point, perhaps a visual metaphor for the cleansing of Germanys sadistic past.
Winslet's performance is excellent, managing to be that cold aloof German woman we have all met, the authenticity of the period spot on as she tries to bury her past and that guilt by hiding away her emotions and existence, their automated attitude to sex also part of that. I've dated two women from Munich and can vouch for that one! But as gorgeous as Kate is she does have that ability to be extremely plain on screen that adds an alarming realism to relationships. Her control freak character is extremely interesting though and worth watching just for that and sort of encapsulates that conflicting maternal need for women to take a much younger lover to feed the need for innocent intimacy. When the Irish First Ministers 60-year-old wife Mrs Robinson (what are the odds) took her 19-year-old lover it wasn't so much about the sex but the need to be in control and powerful once again, her natural instinct, and Germanys biggest hang up today.
The Reader is everything the tedious Atonement-the 2007 big British film offering to the Oscars-wasn't and worthy of its awards and nominations. We have seen one too many sprawling Oscar targeting movies like Atonement from England of late and so it was such a relief this didn't deteriorate into another English Patient bore, especially as Ralph Finnes was in it. As limited an actor he is, the old stiff upper lip quivering on queue, he's very good here and holds together an intelligent and grown up movie. For once it's a prestige British movie on show in Hollywood that's not about the thespians and acting but the plotting and an enigmatic storyline. You want to enjoy the thing unfolding rather than suffer sweeping panoramas and likewise classical music soundtracks every other scene, glossing over what can be very lame movies. This isn't any of those.
There are one or two issues over the timeline and its never made clear if Michael Berg is Jewish, and perhaps that would have made an even more powerful movie, Hannah sleeping with Michael because eh was Jewish. I'm sure someone who has read what must be a cracking book can answer that one. On the whole though its well worth a go and I can say to those, like me, who tend to shy off the big over-hyped Oscar winners that this is good and is not another Benjamin Button sprawling bore...
Imdb.com scores it7.7 out of 10.0 (39,113 votes)
RuN-TiMe 124 minutes
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