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Studio: Genius Products Inc Release Date: 04/14/2009
What is the nature of guilt--and how can the human spirit survive when confronted with deep and horrifying truths? The Reader, a hushed and haunting meditation on these knotty questions, is sorrowful and shocking, yet leavened by a deep love story that is its heart. In postwar Germany, young schoolboy Michael (German actor David Cross) meets and begins a tender romance with the older, mysterious Hanna (Kate Winslet, whose performance is a revelation). The two make love hungrily in Hanna's shabby apartment, yet their true intimacy comes as Michael reads aloud to Hanna in bed, from his school assignments, textbooks, even comic books. Hanna delights in the readings, and Michael delights in Hanna.
Years later, the two cross paths again, and Michael (played as an adult by Ralph Fiennes) learns, slowly, horrifyingly, of acts that Hanna may have been involved in during the war. There is a war crimes trial, and the accused at one point asks the panel of prosecutors: "Well, what would you have done?" It is that question--as one German professor says later: "How can the next generation of Germans come to terms with the Holocaust?"--that is both heartbreaking and unanswerable. Winslet plays every shade of gray in her portrayal of Hanna, and Fiennes is riveting as the man who must rewrite history--his own and his country's--as he learns daily, hourly, of deeds that defy categorization, and morality. "No matter how much washing and scrubbing," one character says matter of factly, "some sins don't wash away." The Reader (with nods to similar films like Sophie's Choice and The English Patient dares to present that unnerving premise, without offering an easy solution. --A.T. Hurley
Stills from The Reader (Click for larger image)
- Wants to be bigger than it is
"Can we just get over the clich¨¦s" is what I felt as I read most of the other reviews for this movie. "Powerful!" "A masterpiece!" "Thought-provoking!" What new thoughts did The Reader provoke? Honestly, now, make a list and post them in the comments section below. Not only was this movie rather thin, I find its key plot element to be incredible, in the truest sense of the word. This is a movie that was tailer-made for the Academy Awards and for middle-brow viewers who want to delude themselves that they're having a "deep" intellectual experience without actually having their intellect disturbed.
The Reader reminded me of Evening, last year's watery-eyed chick-fest starring Claire Danes, Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, Toni Collette and a lot of other double-X chromosomed thespians. Both films want terribly to be deep and brilliant. Both lack the weight they're pretending to carry. Without revealing spoilers, let's just say if someone, a woman say, is carrying around a shameful secret she's willing to go to jail for a very very long time for, that secret had better be *huge.* What comes quickest to mind is Faye Dunaway in Chinatown--"My sister/My daughter!" It stretches credibility to me that the woman here would not reveal a relatively trivial something that would keep her out of prison for the rest of her life. At that moment the plot point became a gimmick for me and not a real organic story element.
But other things troubled me about The Reader too. Fiennes' character, Michael Berg, doesn't seem to have any epiphanies either; he hasn't talked about what happened for 30 years, but at the end, other than telling his daughter, I don't see any changes in him, any meditation on the nature of good and evil, or free will vs obedience, or nihilism vs civilization or anything else. A late scene set in New York, with Lena Olin's second appearance (she plays both a mother and her daughter and appears at two different spots in the end credits, possibly a cinematic first), falls flat, though it's well-acted. I knew what her decision would be regarding Hanna's "atonement" long before it happened. And that's the second major problem with the movie: I was constantly ahead of the film. I figured out Hanna's shameful secret long before we were meant to. And the moment where we *were* supposed to realize it was marred by cutting in heavy-handed flashbacks. (There's a similar heavy-handed moment in his 2002 film The Hours, where we cut between a young boy and an older man to make what should have been an already obvious connection if you were awake.) For all the talk about what a refined and graceful director Daldry is, I think he tends to drive home his Big Moments with power tools. (Another example of this is the scene where Hanna is told to, and declines to, give a handwriting sample; it is so ham-fisted as to be almost laughable.)
The first quarter of the movie is the best, where the young boy overcomes his adolescent gawkiness and discovers puberty, thanks to a severe-but-nonetheless-beautiful Kate Winslet. Once we flash forward and move to the courtroom, The Reader drags, and the second act is almost by the numbers. In fact, there's only one thing more by the numbers than the second act and that's the third act. But if that weren't enough, Daldry punctuates every emotional moment with a music cue and that staple of serious films these days (taken, I think, from TV and soaps, surprisingly): the sloooow camera push. What's surprising is Daldry says he avoided doing this at the end of The Hours because he decided it was better to let the acting and the dialogue speak for itself. Here he didn't resist temptation, and that's too bad. It, along with a number of other very conventional techniques, makes The Reader look like something made for PBS television.
There were so many moments that could have been the basis for powerful scenes, but these are glossed over. While on trial, Hanna asks one of her judges, "What would you have done?" [in her place] He never answers. An attempt would have been interesting. The difficulty in formulating the attempt would have been interesting. A scene between young Michael and his law professor, where he sort of reveals he has a secret piece of information that would affect the sentencing phase, fizzles. Did he feel guilt for not coming forward with this information? Or years later is he just tormented by his relationship with, and continued feelings for, the horrid woman? The film never really distinguished the two. Instead of slow push-in scenes where we marvel at the great job they did aging Kate Winslet, I'd like to have seen more depth from screenwriter David Hare, because, brother, I can tell you from experience, he can (or at least used to be able to) provide deep insights into tortured and conflicted human souls, especially from this period of time. Just read Plenty or Licking Hitler.
I'm so happy Kate Winslet won a Best Actress Oscar. She's long deserved one. But not for this film. I think she won partly because she was overdue and partly because the Academy *loves* it when people play roles where they age. A performance of shuffling feet, shaky hands and droopy shoulders always scores well with the voters, and as soon as I heard they were aging her I knew Oscar glory would be hers. Too bad she didn't get the statue for her far better film of last year, Revolutionary Road.
I understand the book this movie is based on is very popular in Germany and is considered a modern classic. While I haven't read it, and don't know how true the film adaptation was, I'd have to say if it's like the movie then its popularity is due more to the sociological reactions it provokes among Germans than for profundity. Or maybe the book has all sorts of nuances the film lacks. But the movie version is a very ordinary story, dressed up in important clothes, that rests on the thin ice of a plot element that feels phony. Want a deep, painful film about the Holocaust, see Polanski's The Pianist. Now *that's* a movie I can't get out of my head....more info
- A Masterpiece
This film was beautifully done in every way from beginning to end. It was absolutely captivating throughout. Kate Winslet was superb--as usual. David Kross was nothing short of perfect! Great plot, great acting, great writing, great directing, great cinematography. What more can you ask for?...more info
- Engrossing and Captivating~ A MUST See!
This movie as anything starring Kate Winslet was FABULOUS!
It was moving and emotionally stirring.
It is easy to see why she won the awards.
Be sure to watch *ALL* of the *Special Features*
on "The Reader" DVD, they explain so much.
I will not spoil it, but I do wish David Kross's character had come forward when it mattered.
Watch it, you will not be disappointed.
After all, I OWN it. :)...more info
- KATE OSCAR POWERFUL __If you've a heart for others, you'll be touched.
The heart of this film is in the title--"The Reader." If you're looking for a Holocaust picture, this really is not it, but it's mentioned. If you're looking for a period film, NOT THIS, it covers every decade from the 50's to the 90's. It's a movie hard to categorize other than "astonishing depth" for looking deeply into the psychological make-up of several leading characters. The activity of "the reader" at different segments of Hanna's life helps makes this story so intriguing.
It begins with a teenage Michael Berg (David Kross) becoming ill in the alley and an mid-30's, Hanna, helps him home. This chance meeting sparks an affair. Hanna (Kate Winslet, "Titanic") shares her body in trade for Michael reading to her. The affair ends suddenly, but not in the heart and mind of Michael.
The movie travels 5 decades. An early 90's decade scene has older Michael (Ralph Fiennes) planning to meet with his daughter. Michael is obviously troubled, struggling within himself, but why? The movie tell WHY! It tells of multiple relationships with "The Reader."
Kate Winslet's performance is the driving force and success to this thought stimulating story. It's why she won the Oscar and many other awards for her role in "The Reader." She stated in the bonus material, "It (this film) doesn't answer any questions." Another great summary line from the screenplay writer (David Hare), "How do you live in the shadow of one of the greatest crimes in human history?" "The Reader" asks questions, but lets the viewer think of possible answers, or why?
After watching during an evening, my night was filled with pondering, dreaming, and my own inward struggle dealing with the issues of the film's main characters. This movie does that to you. Not exactly entertaining, but surely and hugely thought provoking. Call it a masterpiece.
There are many Special Features on the DVD including "Deleted Scenes" (a great many, & very worthwhile). "Kate Winslet On The Art Of Aging Hanna Schmitz" also indicates the Winslet nudity is not all real. This bonus segment is important to see just how Kate was able to so successfully portray a 36 year-old, and then age each decade, until her final scene where Hanna's age is her late 60s. Incredible make-up, incredible acting. 5 additional bonus features.
English and Spanish Subtitles are available.
Bottom line...this is a movie to own for repeated viewing and loaning to friends. Or do the gift thing....more info
- How about an alternate ending?
Without question, this is beautifully done by everyone involved. (And if they teach this in German high schools, its no wonder they don't have the dropout problems we do).
But the story turns on a person being so ashamed of being illiterate that she would rather spend life in prison vs. saying "Well shoot. I can't read or write so I guess that answers your question!"
Obviously, most people didn't have a problem with that and one presumes Hannah is so overcome with guilt that she feels she deserves a life sentence. She never gives any such indication but its the only other explanation.
All of this is a monstrous stretch but even if true, her one great admirer, who happens to be learning that there is no morality, only law, withholds information that's vital to this most serious case. Of course, it would have been predictable for him to jump up and say "She can't write!" but it would give the story what it lacks--plausibility....more info
- Nein! Nein! Ja! Ja! Ich bin eine SS Hausfrau, OR, How much sex can a teenage boy have before his predator becomes an SS guard?!?
The Reader is one hell of a movie because it involves and epitomizes what true, pure Evil really is, but not in the way the majority of these acolyte, sheeple reviewers might think. See, in the view of I, who practices moral clarity and intellectual honesty, The Reader is pure Evil not because it deals with themes of Nazism, genocide of Jews, and the little twist of not knowing people who you think you know, but because of the fiercely unethical devices it uses to tell said story! Whereas The Reader could've merely focused on its main theme in a way which makes the point that people must pay for their crimes and that personal pride/insecurity is one's downfall, the disgusting, socially liberal movie instead celebrates teenager exploitation, underage sex with minors, soulless sex, and sexual encounters with no commitment afterwards. In other, words, the liberal's very wet dream!
As from my aforementioned paragraph, The Reader's severest, most unpardonable dilemma is with SEX: how it uses sex in its story, how it abused certain child actors in real life for the purposes of showing sex on film, and how it fetes loveless, sexual encounters of non-committal!!!! This movie deals with a man who, as a teenager, was sexually abused and molested by a thirtysomething woman (though the liberals who made this movie and enjoy it call it a tender, "coming-of-age" experience!) through episodes of casual sex, but then as an adult is shocked to learn that the woman who was sexually preying on him was in fact a N*zi SS guard who killed lots of Jews! Besides sounding like an idiotically ludicrous story right off the bat, The Reader also wickedly schemes to humanize the N*zi guard/sexual predator-woman and make the gullible audience of, I bet, mostly liberal relativists sympathize with her by the movie's end!! That's so inexcusably dreadful because that slant of the movie forbids that the villain is condemned--which she rightly should be--while falsely presenting her as some kind of "tragic" figure to be empathized with!!! Geez, man alive...that grossly twisted interpretation of this film's theme is really the epitome of quintessential, screwed-up, insane, but typical liberal thinking.
My biggest concern about this sexualized excuse for a film is the potential-but-very-real emotional and sexual abuse of the young, Germanic, teenage boy (David Cross) who "starred" in this film as the teenage victim of one Kate Winslet's old-woman advances of sexual molestation. According to some reports, poor, little, previously innocent David Cross was merely 17 or 18 when this movie was made (read: when he was being raped, essentially, on film for the purposes of "story telling," yeah, right!) and he was heartlessly deflowered by the very mature Kate Winslet (really aged at 33).
I'm not getting off (oooops, no pun intended!!) of this David Cross-exploitation issue because The Reader features so many disturbing scenes of graphic intercourse with a minor that, frankly, Child Services ought to be called retroactively!!! For instance, one scene that disturbed me to the point where I had vivid nightmares was the one where young Michael (Cross' character) is diabolically told by Kate Winslet to strip naked for a bath after he was dirtied from carrying coal to her place. The audience is perversely "treated" to shots of Cross' p*nis, his pubic hair (oh, my!!), and his naked a$$ as he gets into the tub. Remember, Cross is 17 or 18...my Gawd! Then, there's a hard (again, no pun intended) insinuation that young Michael is experiencing an e*ection (also known as a h*rd-on to all those who like to speak in urban terms), but the profanity and destruction of Cross' innocence does NOT--I repeat, DOES NOT--end merely there...oh, no, madam! As young Michael rises from the tub, which by now contains the filth of his body in the form of grime, in all his supple and young-buck glory, Kate Winslet is lecherously standing naked behind him! WTF?! Again, Cross is only 17 or 18 at the time of this scene, yet his innocence is being compromised when it ought to be protected at all costs! Why, God, why!!? Brace yourselves for what, sinfully, is aroused (again, no pun intended) at this point: As Winslet approaches young-buck Michael from behind while naked and holding a towel, ostensibly for him, she reaches around the front of his body and fondles his friggin' p*nis!! Then, adding lewdness to injury, her character blasphemes, "So THAT'S why you came back!!!" Good God...so now, the audience doesn't just have to deal with Cross' child p*rn, but also idiotic and poorly delivered sexual puns and euphemisms from the characters?! Hell no! That just crosses the line, missy! I wish this nightmarish scene would've just ended then and there--God knows the destruction to the innocence of young David Cross is immeasurable at this juncture--but it gets worse. After all this debauchery, the audience is harmfully "treated" to flashback scenes--I guess the vile, liberal director assumed it would justify the child p*rn he was indulging in by using the movie technique of the flashback or something to stun the audience with his mediocre director's knowledge!--of young Michael and Winslet having sex, as is demonstrated by upright sex with Winslet's ta-tas exposed and heavy, guttural breathing sounds rounding out the sm*t. To finish off this hedonistic celebration of wickedness, we see a head-and-shoulders view of young Michael "giving it" good to Winslet by being on top of her while she's beneath him in an obvious missionary position, complete with hyper-aggressive movement (read: obscene thrusting) and more animalistic, uncontrollable sounds of guttural lust!!! With all this heaviness in mind, please remember again that--oh God, will I have the strength to continue this review? Well...will I or won't I?--Germanic Cross is merely 17 or 18 at this time. My God in Heaven, when will this misuse and stealing of his innocence end--WHEN???!!
Like all that aforementioned baggage is not enough to earn this film a lifetime rating of ROTTEN on the Rotten Tomatoes website, the plot of the film is so very asinine that it makes you wonder just how stupid some people can be. See, the plot twists here are inexcusably absurd. For instance, after spending his teen years getting sexually molested by the Winslet character, young Michael, as an adult, figures out that she was in fact an SS guard implicated in murdering Jews. Gee, you'd think that during all the indulgently gratuitous sex he was getting from her as a teenager, young Michael would have at least one time shown some intellectual curiosity and inquired of his older abuser:
"What exactly do you do for a living, madam? What's that now, you say? You're a what? You kill Jews as a member of the N*zi cause? Oh, well, continue taking advantage of me sexually, then!"
Instead, young Michael actually reads to his older, Bavarian sexual abuser from classic literature and poetry while the two of them are basking in the romantic afterglow of the predatory, sexual molestation of young Michael by the Winslet character. This curious tidbit--the reading to the Winslet character--is a little foreshadowing of the utterly stupidest plot twist later in the movie, by the way. As a law student, Michael as an adult learns his former sexual predator is on trial for war crimes with the charge being murdering Jews as an SS guard. However, Winslet is apparently innocent of this crime, but she willfully permits herself to be made the scapegoat by her fellow SS guards for her own personal motive.
Are you ready for what that motive is? Well, are you? Here it is in all its asinine-and-absurd "glory": Kate Winslet's character is an undereducated illiterate whose shame at her illiteracy will not allow her to admit said fact during trial despite that doing so would save her neck and incriminate the real perpetrators! The professional dummy who came up with this torturous absurdity of a story apparently thought that it would be "deep," or whatever, to have the Winslet character be such a masochistic psychopath that she wasn't even capable of exercising the basic judgment of a two-year-old and instead chose a lengthy prison sentence over an admission of illiteracy. Yep, that makes sense...if you're a hopeless nitwit, that is.
In conclusion, I have two pieces of useful advice that all people who are even errantly considering viewing this movie better take to heart. First, from my award-winning review, I've made it clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that this sm*t film/absurd attempt at unintentional comedy was composed of exclusively two elements: child p*rn and absurd plot twists that made it something like slapstick comedy. Ergo, I recommend--and you KNOW you can always trust a JerkFace--instead of seeing this movie that you merely watch p*rn and slapstick comedy movies separately.
- Winslet and Kross mesmerize in this thought-provoking movie
The movie "The Reader" is based on Bernhard Schlink's semi-autobiographical 1995 novel of the same name. For the most part, the movie stays true to the novel and it is a movie that bears watching again and again, if only because it raises so many questions, having to do with the collective guilt of the German people due to the events of WW II, i.e. the Holocaust, the moral ambiguities and conflicts experienced by some of the characters, and the matter of redemption or absolution.
The timeline of the story is in three parts, though viewers are taken back and forth between the three periods via flashbacks.In the present, Ralph Fiennes plays the mature Michael Berg who recollects the events of his youth that have left emotional scars on him. Viewers are taken via flashback to 1958, where Michael Berg [David Kross] is a 15-year-old schoolboy who first meets Hanna Schmitz [Kate Winslet] when he throws up because of scarlet fever. Hanna comes to his aid and when Michael recovers a few months later, he goes back to thank her. The young teen finds himself sexually attracted to Hanna, and very soon a torrid affair ensues between the two. The sex scenes themselves are muted and tastefully done, though there is a lot of graphic nudity, and I can understand how these scenes may put off some people, given that it is sex between a 30+ year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy [ David Kross had to wait till he turned 18 before filming the more graphic scenes]. But, given the story, the sex scenes are integral in establishing the nature of the relationship between the two and how this later affects both of them.
Michael is engrossed by Hanna, and finds it hard to accept how she distances herself from him in terms of revealing more about herself [for quite some time, he doesn't even know her name]. Hanna is drawn to Michael for reasons of her own, one being that she loves listening to him read to her - works such as Lady Chatterley's Lover, a novel by Chekhov etc. The pair find happiness and lose themselves in each other, but one day Michael comes to Hanna's flat and finds her gone.
Eight years later, Michael is a young law student who attends a trial of Nazi war criminals, and is stupefied to find Hanna one of the defendants. he is mortified to realize that Hanna used to be an SS guard at a concentration camp. Even more so, as the trial progresses, he makes a startling discovery, one that could help Hanna in her defense. The decision he makes is one that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
"The Reader" is an emotionally-charged movie that deal with a multitude of issues - the guilt of an individual vs the collective guilt of the German people for the Holocaust, the pangs of first love and of two souls connecting despite all the social taboos that frown upon such associations, the matter of atonement or lack of it, redemption etc. In the capable hands of the director, the viewer is able to follow the story as it presents all these issues - and I came to understand the main characters with all their complexities and conflicts.
Winslet and Kross are to be commended for their credible character portrayals. In one of her finest performances [justifiably winning the Oscar], Winslet portrays a tormented soul who harbors a secret so shameful that she will not even use it in her defense. She can be aggressive one moment, yet tender and passive the next, and the mercurial changes in her behavior are so credibly portrayed by her vivid facial expressions and manner of speech. Kross beguiles in his performance as the besotted schoolboy who loves passionately and who later feels 'betrayed' by what he discover about Hanna's past, vacillating between hurt, anger and a yearning for the one woman he truly loved. Ralph Fiennes also does a credible job as the mature Michael who has to come to terms with his past.
"The Reader" is a compelling movie indeed.
- Powerful holocaust drama
Like all works of art that endeavor to "illuminate" the Holocaust, "The Reader" ultimately finds itself looking for answers where none can be found. Yet, the beauty of the film is that it seems to acknowledge the impossibility of its task. Thus, rather than trying to resolve all the issues it raises, the movie simply places those issues before us, trusting that, in the final analysis, we will be able to come to our own conclusions about what, if anything, it all "means."
Though it is set in a number of different time periods, the story proper begins in 1958, when a 15-year-old German boy by the name of Michael Berg is seduced by a 38-year-old woman named Hanna Schmitz. For a summer, the two carry on a secret, illicit affair, wherein the woman introduces the boy to the joys of physical love, while he reciprocates by reading the classics to her between bouts of passionate lovemaking. Flash forward to 1966 when Michael, now a university law student, discovers, much to his horror, that this very same Hanna who meant so much to him in his youth is actually a former concentration camp guard currently standing trial for war crimes. The story goes even further ahead in time as a now middle-aged Michael keeps up the relationship by sending his personalized recordings of books to Hanna as she serves out her time in prison.
There has been some criticism leveled against the film that it aims to cast a Nazi mass murderer in a "sympathetic" light. Yet, what ultimately comes across in the story is not how "likable" a person Hanna is but how sadly tragic. Like all fine drama, "The Reader" goes beyond the two-dimensional stereotypes of heroes and villains to examine the complexity of human relationships and the messiness of the human condition. The movie keeps us emotionally off-balance throughout. Even in the early stages of the courtship, we are torn between our attraction to the characters as individuals and our revulsion at the difference in their ages. Hanna is particularly enigmatic as she embraces a child two decades her junior yet seems to find some strange fulfillment in him that goes beyond the obvious physicality of their relationship. Despite the touchy nature of these scenes, we get a feel for what brings these two very different characters together at this particular moment in time.
As the story moves on, the screenplay confronts many of the thornier issues surrounding what exactly happened in Germany in the middle of the Twentieth Century, questioning how so many "average" people could, at best, have turned a blind eye to the events that were occuring, and, at worst, have allowed themselves to become complicit in the mass atrocities. There's a beautifully incisive scene in which a young law student confronts his professor, demanding to know how the man has been able to live with himself for all these years, knowing that he did not do everything within his power to try and stop what was happening. In that brief, shining moment, we get a sense of what it must have been like for the people in Germany in the decades following the war when so many, Hanna included, simply turned their backs on the past in an effort to move on with their lives.
Perhaps the most complex character in the story is Michael, who, as he ages and learns more and more hidden truths about his first love, must come to terms with the fact that the woman he thought he knew on the most intimate of terms may, in fact, be an unrepentant mass murderer. Yet, love is not something that can be turned on and off at will, and it takes Michael decades to figure out just how best to deal with the moral dilemma raging in the very depths of his soul.
Michael is played first by David Kross in the period from 1958 to 1966, and then by Ralph Fiennes in the time thereafter. Both are superb, with Kross, in particular, delivering a performance of such delicacy and sensitivity that he sets the groundwork for what Fiennes is called on to do later in the film. And, of course, Kate Winslet, in the role that won her an Oscar, demonstrates yet again why she is one of the screen's great actresses.
Kudos must also go to screenwriter David Hare, who has adapted Bernhard Schlink's complexly structured novel with integrity and taste, and to director Stephen Daldry and cinematographers Chris Menges and Roger Deakins for the sumptuous look they have achieved with the film. Together, these fine artists have created a work that challenges the intellect and roils the emotions. ...more info
- Shane on you Kate
WHen first watching this film I felt it was a slow moving film that reminderd me of the German version of The Graduate. I was wrong, it is a film that you defintely have to stay with meaing don't go back to the fridge if you do not have to. There is a lot of nudity in this film tastefully done if it can be. It is in the end all a question of guilt and how deep it runs. There are a lot of scences featuring a bathtub it being in many sensual scenes whether it was necessary or not I would give the film a chance. BRAVO KATE you deserved that gold statue....more info
- Sexy and Thought-Provoking
I admit I had no idea what this movie was about other than it involves the Holocaust and has a scene with Kate Winslet in a bathtub. The first half of the film is adequate as a teen-boy-has-affair-with-older-woman story reminiscent of "The Graduate" and "The Door in the Floor." However, in its second half, the film suddenly turns into a provocative tale of morality. Kate Winslet earns her Oscar in a conflicted performance: You sympathize with her when she becomes the scapegoat of a trial, and you hate her for her frustrating lack of remorse. The film doesn't ask you to forgive her, but to put yourself in her shoes. Yes, there is obviously something psychologically wrong with her that helped her do the horrendous things that she did, but in spite of that, can you say with confidence that you wouldn't have done the same?
Bottom line: Some may find the film gratuitous in its eroticism, immoral in its portrayal of the Nazis, or boring in its pace. Not knowing what to expect, I found it sexy, challenging, and absorbing.
Richard Yee, author of Deliveries: A Collection...more info
- Interesting story but too much
I liked this movie because it was interesting too follow. I liked the actors and thought the story moved well. There are some touching scenes. I did feel there was too much male nudity. I was like is this a porno or what? But It was moving because of my own love affair with a older woman when I was young. Although I also realized while typing this that the woman in this movie is a pedophile. But she is a woman so she gets a pass I guess....more info
- The Reader
A very good story. A well made film. It will be the movie that made me respect and become a fan of Kate Winslet. I'll recommend this film many times more....more info
Given the accolades this film received I was very excited to see it. Without doubt Winslet's performance as Schmitz was flawless, one to remember for her career. Kross as the younger Michael Berg was equally enthralling. Fiennes's portrayal of adult Berg was a bit stiff and drole, which despite those being hallmarks of Fiennes' skill--posing no challenges to him, the dry delivery of Berg worked well. Where this film was not a total success to me was in its storytelling. The plotholes are many, which apparently detracted from the film's glory for much of its audience. I can say that I did note as the plot progressed that it takes rather unintuitive leaps, though I did not feel that such omissions completely derailed the film. In the setting of post-war Germany, Berlin, to be specific, I can expect there to be a stoic presentation of life and relationships. In that setting abundant and lush expressions of feelings and emotion just don't exist. However, the audience is left to assume this cultural characteristic is the reason for Berg's distance from his family, for any disjunct between Berg and Schmitz, for Berg's reasons that he keeps his relationship with and knowledge of Schmitz to himself. The explanations of these significant details are conveyed through facial expressions and slowly paced scenes, which for all their subtlety in imparting meaning serve most to slow the pace of the film. I felt OK with the assumptions I made for characters' motivations, but I can entirely understand an audience for whom that was not enough explanation. Despite the lack of new perspectives introduced about the Holocaust or the reconstructionist era of Germany, this film will certainly introduce new concepts of humanity to many, particularly the banality of many who were involved with Nazi efforts. Overall this film is well done and deserving of praise....more info
- "But then she dispatched them. Is that kinder?"
"The Reader," based on the book of the same name by German author Bernard Schlink, tells the story of an affair between a middle-aged trolley-car worker (Hanna Schmitz, played by Kate Winslet) and a teen boy (Michael Berg, played by David Kross) in 1958. The affair is odd, with Hanna insisting that the boy read classic literature to her before they make love. They don't even know each other's names initially. After several months together, the boy finds Hanna's apartment empty one day, and he does not see her again for 8 years when he is in law school. Despite the briefness of the affair, it has a profound effect on the boy.
I read the book, "The Reader," about 10 years ago, shortly after it was released, and the movie is more or less faithful to it. Some audiences are going to avoid "The Reader." For example, some viewers are bound to be offended by an affair between a woman in her 30s and a 15 year old boy. Indeed, these scenes are rather graphic, including full frontal female and male nudity (director Stephen Daldry had to hold off filming these scenes until the end of filming when David Kross turned 18 years old). Likewise, some people probably think that "The Reader" is just another dreary Holocaust movie. However, they're going to miss a worthwhile movie. First, neither the affair nor the Holocaust is the core of the movie; instead the focus is on post-WWII German guilt. The affair basically is a plot device to illustrate the generation gap in how Germans viewed what occurred during the Holocaust. Second, no scenes depict Holocaust events, although there is some brief emotional trial testimony. Certainly "The Reader" is an emotion-laden movie, but it does not show explicit violence like "Schindler's List."
For interested viewers, there's much to appreciate in this film. Kate Winslet is spectacular and deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also won a slew of Supporting Actress awards for the part, including the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild (she was marketed as supporting actress so it wouldn't compete with her leading role in "Revolutionary Road"). Her part perhaps is smaller than David Kross' role, but she is definitely the leading actress here. The makeup artists (who get their own mini-documentary on the DVD extras) also merit attention, as they age Kate quite believably across 40 years. Ralph Fiennes also does solid work as the older version of Michael Berg; he really had a great 2008, with terrific turns in "The Duchess" and "In Bruges." He really should have gotten more love during awards season, especially for "In Bruges." Finally, David Kross is perfectly cast as the teen Michael. Kross is German and had to learn English for the role; he more than holds his own against the luminous Winslet.
Another major strength is the movie's spare script, which prevents the audience from an easy resolution. "The Reader" never directly tells us what we should think about Hanna - never moralizes. As Kate Winslet explains on one of the documentaries on the DVD extras, the movie doesn't ask the audience to sympathize with Hanna. However, the movie does not demonize her, instead maintaining enough gray areas to force the audience to think critically about their response. I appreciated this approach even more after viewing some of the deleted scenes which tended to overexplain situations and lead the viewers in certain directions. Despite these strengths, "The Reader" is flawed. The movie unfolds a bit too leisurely. In addition, by making Hanna an enigma, it distances the audience and prevents an emotional catharsis. As long as you can cope with these flaws, though, you will likely gain something from watching the film.
- teenage sex...and the Holocaust?
Kate Winslet lends this film automatic star power, but the movie flounders because of two major flaws. First, there are at least four or five stories here, beginning with fifteen-year-old Michael Berg who has a summer love affair with Hanna Schmitz (Winslet) who is almost forty. Nearly an hour later, and without any warning, The Reader turns into a Holocaust film, with the attendant themes that you might expect. There are also deeply personal, moral, and legal twists that turn the film into a melodrama. What appears to be a minor subplot turns into an undeveloped major theme in the last minutes of the film. Finally, with the film flashing back and forth between Michael's obsession with his past, The Reader is a study of the power of memory to shape the present. The other major flaw is that these separate but related stories require a significant suspension of disbelief on the part of the viewer. The love affair is not the only twist that begs many complicated questions. The film is based upon the novel by Bernhard Schlink....more info
- Kate Winslet deserved that Oscar!!!
Kate Winslet is amazing in this film, establishing herself as one of the great actresses of all time. Ralph Feinnes and David Cross were incredible, too. Other reviewers have reviewed it well, so I won't repeat their praises, though I certainly second them. My nickel's worth is here in simple appreciation for a wonderful movie. Highly recommend it....more info
- mixed up
I sometimes feel I should have enjoyed this movie, which aspires to be "challenging", a lot more than I did. The story of crime and morality in the Nazi era is never one to be callow about, but this film seems like it's not sure what it wants to be about: the horrors of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, legal issues and moral ambiguities, the nobility of a fallen woman, or kinky sex. Kate Winslett seems like the real star of this movie, for which she finally won an Academy Award (uh-oh, does this mean that she'll never be in a good movie again?), and Ralph Fiennes plays her conflicted young lover as a conflicted adult. He frowns a lot. Kate Winslet looks as young in "old lady makeup" in this film as she did in "Titanic." Will they never learn? ...more info
- Stupendous movie, very beautiful story
At least every review here must talk about the sexual content in this film. Well, the nudity surprised me at first, but the scenes were only in the beginning of the movie and they disappeared pretty quick. The content of these scenes was strong enough that the actor playing young Michael Berg had to wait to turn 18 to film the scenes. If you watch the movie, you will see he is a very good actor.
The Reader is about the love affair between 15 year-old Michael and a woman twice his age, Hanna. The affair lasts the summer until Hanna suddenly disappears. The next time Michael is to see her he is a law student and Hanna is on trial for her involvement in the Holocaust. With Hanna refusing to defend herself properly, Michael figures out her secret and then is torn between telling the judge what Hanna is obviously ashamed about or keeping it to himself, which will mean hurting Hanna in the trial.
The content in this movie is powerful. The movie does a lot with a little- there is little action, the music is slow and subtle, (but beautiful) and the story itself unravels slowly. Kate Winslet's acting is at it's best. After watching the movie I couldn't stop thinking about it and went back to see it again. I like that this movie made me question myself; when I found myself feeling sorry for Hanna I asked myself, Was I really feeling sorry for someone who was a Nazi? The movie almost portrays Hanna as a victim and it is up to you to determine your feelings about her. There is also a very powerful scene at the end of the movie in which the older Michael Berg goes to visit one of the victims who survived the Holocaust. I don't think there are many movies these days that leave people thinking and asking questions in the end, so this is a must see film. You won't forget it. ...more info
- Classy Flick
Adaptions of books, especially one's I've been engrossed by, as with Schlink's, 'The Reader' are circumspect prospects. There are any number of filmic failures; literality being a chief offence. I hasten to add that this realisation is one of the most profound exceptions to my expectations. All the actors are brilliant and David Hare's adaption of the original text is tense and enthralling. If anything, and I think of Tarkovsky's use of Lem(Solaris), and of Ang Lee's of Priouxl(Brokeback Mountain), this transcends its literary source. The film is fashioned/structured with marvellous and subtle unfolding of awareness and the tragedy of the lead characters as their respective enthusiasms and naive leaping at life turns to disaster. There is no letting up in this movie! I loved the scene in the Jewish daughter's New York apartment where accountability was assessed...the event measured, as was the entire film. Gripping and supremely moving. ...more info
- Sex and Nazis in Post War Germany
The Reader is set in post World War II Germany in the late 50's where the post-war generation is simultaneously trying to forget and to come to terms with, literally the sins of their fathers (and their mothers`) Nazi past.
A 16 year old Michael Burke (David Kross) meets Hannah (Kate Winslet) an older woman and they have an affair. The affair at first seems to be about sex. When Michael brings his schoolbooks to Hannah's house, which includes a copy of The Odyssey, Hannah asks Michael to read it to her. Throughout the summer of their affair Michael reads book after book to her until one day Hannah disappears without any explanation to Michael.
Michael assimilates the loss of Hannah into his life and moves on becoming a law student. One day one of his professors takes Michael and the class to a war crimes trial where Michael discovers Hannah is one of the defendants. During the war Hannah had a been a prison guard and true to Hannah's character she had become a guard because it was a good job, and still truer to Hannah's character is the revelation that Hannah asked the prisoners to read to her. Michael is devastated to learn why Hannah picked a prisoner to read to her and what happened to them afterwards. But Hannah has a deeper secret, one she fears revealing more than a war crime. Michael has information that would exonerate Hannah, and if Michael helps her or doesn't sets the moral conflict of the story. Both sides of the issue are discernable, arguable and provocative.
Michael grows up to be Ralph Fiennes, and Kross looks enough like Fiennes that there's no jolt as the movie switches from a young Michael to the older Michael. You believe Kross can grow up to be Fiennes. Fiennes as the older Michael and half a lifetime away from Hannah still can't come to grips with the effect, both positive and negative that Hannah has had on his life, as he tries to assuage his guilt in an attempt to come to terms with it.
The acting is uniformly great throughout the movie and David Kross holds his own with both Winslet and Fiennes. While Fiennes is consistently good in the movie, this is Winslet's movie. One scene that stands out is a moment between Fiennes and Winslet when Hannah wants and needs to be held by Michael and her body betrays her emotions. It is a moment rarely seen in actors that they can portray their characters so viscerally and vulnerably. It's a nuanced gesture that says so much for the character and for Winslet's increasing acting abilities.
I like bonus features on DVD's and The Reader has plenty of bonuses for you. There are deleted scenes that seem like they could have only been deleted for time considerations because they add to, or would have added to the understanding of Hannah. Usually, when watching deleted scenes you understand why they were deleted, but not in this case.
There are also featurettes about the making of the movie, Kate Winslet explaining the make-up (which is actually interesting and funny) and a featurette about the composer as well as the set design of the movie.
From the movie to the bonus features this a complete and full package for someone looking for a good movie to add to their DVD collection....more info
- Why the hoopla?
I have not read the book, and I waited until the DVD to see the film. After all the Oscar nominations and rave reviews by friends, I suppose I expected something more. Instead, this movie is really about something less. A young man has an affair with his first lover, a damaged woman, whom he remembers for the rest of his life. That's it. The characters are one-dimensional, we never really see what drives Ralph Fiennes' character, and there isn't even much of a story line. If it weren't for the Holocaust factor, this movie may not have gotten a second look. Even that factor plays a supremely small, albeit admittedly powerful, role in the film. In the end we have a lifetime of lost love and unexplored secrets played quietly by two great actors. Great acting, directing, and cinematography seems to have puffed up an otherwise simple story. One kept hoping for a remarkable twist at the end that never comes. I really don't see what all the excitement is about. ...more info
- Winslet's expressions can't fill in all the plot holes
It takes a while to figure out what exactly "The Reader" is about. Teenage boy by chance meets older woman who apparently has no existence outside of work. At first they have sex, and after the third go-round get around to finding out what each other's name is. Then she wants him to read to her. So life goes as follows: Sex and reading, then reading and sex. Only he does all the reading. She is also a bit touchy and self-conscious, for reasons beyond the boy's understanding, and causes him pain. He loves her, but why? The only thing they share is sex and books, and then there is the age difference.
Then one day she inexplicably disappears. The next time we see her she is in a courtroom, being charged as a Nazi war criminal. He is part of a law school seminar, ostensibly to study the psychology of mass murder. At a crucial moment he is in a position to help her, but at the last moment turns away. Why? But then again, he is distant from family, friends, his own daughter. Why?
One day he finds books that he had once read to her, and decides to spend hours of his free time making cassette recordings which he mails to her while she is prison, without informing her prior. Why? He never visits her. Why? She learns to write brief notes which she mails to him, but he never responds in spite of her entreaties. Why? When he finally visits her when summoned, as her only known contact, to help her adjust to the world on her release, he reacts rather chillily to her obvious delight in seeing him. Why? If he has gone so far out of his way to ease her prison existence, why should he be disappointed in her now?
The subtext of the film is "How far would you go to protect a secret?" Hanna Schmitz's secret is that she was illiterate. Even for her life she will not reveal that secret. Michael Berg's seems to be that he knows Hanna, but not because of her illiteracy. He never tells anyone--family, friends, anyone until the end--that he knows Hanna, even before he discovers her other past. Strangely, we are given to believe that Hanna's motives are much easier to understand than Michael's.
Not that Hanna deserves our sympathy, or even understanding. Hanna is never bothered by her conscience; she has none. She has a job to do, and she does it by the book--whether it is collecting tram fair or insuring death camp prisoners do not escape from a burning building. Coins or human beings--these are just objects she must collect and distribute. When they meet for a final time at the end, Michael wants to know what she has "learned" from the past. "The dead are still dead" she says. To her the past is past, and should remain in the past. Michael, perhaps to clear his own guilt in even knowing this woman, wants her to say that she knew what she did was wrong, and regrets it. But being the blunt person she is, she can only tell him the truth, which is to say she was only doing her job, and she feels no guilt over that. The seminar professor was wrong: not everyone who kills another human being is aware that it is wrong. Hanna's final "will" can only be understood in the context of her realization that her relationship with Michael was dead because she was incapable of moral reflection.
The end of the film is supposed to provide "catharsis," but there is really none honestly to be had. Michael realizes that he had helped Hanna find some meaning in her life, but his clear disappointment with her at their last meeting rendered it now meaningless to her. But what of that? Many "civilized" Germans committed mass murder, even those who appreciated classic literature. The film seeks to force us to empathize with Hanna, just as it forces Michael to realize how "wrong" he was in his "ill" treatment of Hanna.
This film actually had forty percent negative reviews, despite its Oscar pedigree. I don't fault the actors, they can only work with what they are given. The biggest problem is that there is very little in the way of exposition. The actors are given surprisingly little useful to say; all too often we have to "read" their thoughts and expressions to understand what's going on. Kate Winslet as Hanna does an admirable job of giving us less to guess about; during the trial sequence, we don't need to hear her words to see that she simply doesn't understand what she did wrong. One can credit Winslet with giving an Oscar-worthy effort, but nevertheless there seems just too many plot holes for her to fill by herself.
David Kross does well enough as the young Michael, but again there are just too many potholes in the story line for him to successfully emote through. What is so empty about his life that he needs to have it filled by a woman twenty years his senior when there are other girls his age who are much more attractive--and who are more interested in him? It can't be sex, because they seem willing enough, and Hanna seems disinterested in him outside the sex and reading, a recipe for a relationship that is headed straight for a dead-end (in spite of declarations of love on his part). The sex scenes themselves are fairly brief and tame; the deleted scenes include the NC-17 material. As the older Michael, Ralph Fiennes is given even less to do, and he comes off the worse for wear.
Given the quality of the deleted scenes, I think a "director's cut" or "unrated" version of this film would come off better. The deleted scene in which the young Michael hitchhikes with a former soldier who reveals the blas¨¦ mentality of many Germans who murdered Jews was quite effective and would have cleared-up in a major way both the young and older Michael's changing attitude toward Hanna. Inclusion of the sex scenes would have made the younger Michael's incomprehensible fascination with Hanna more believable, and several other scenes would have made plot transitions and character motivations more comprehensible. The film would have been longer, but sometimes plot confusion makes a film seem longer than it actually is.
The Reader is not a film to be dismissed out-of-hand, if only for Winslet's performance. But this is a film that requires the viewer work harder than he or she needs to. "What is there to understand?" about mass murder, as one character asks.
A well-acted sympathetic portrait of a Nazi concentration camp guard. The idea seems to have been to reveal the banality of evil, the small things that can lead an ordinary person to do horrific things. Certainly a phenomenon worth exploring, but not one to be forgiven, as, in the end, this movie does....more info
- Over-long, Over-hyped but Worth a Look
When a "serious" movie like The Reader comes to your multi-plex, dragging rave reviews and award nominations, then you feel compelled to see it. You do so, if you're like me, with that slight feeling of dread that this will be very long, very serious and very ambiguous.
Kate Winslett deserved her Oscar for Best Actress as Hannah, the SS guard who deliberately helped murder hundreds of innocent jews. Her young lover, played by newcomer David Kross, was also outstanding. Other than that, the movie defies logic and leaves you wanting more.
My biggest complaint was that the movie makers wants us to believe that the handsome, adorable German youth would fall in love with someone as scrubby, ugly and plain looking as the Hannah character. Lust, yes. He's young and lusty and she might have been a brief sexual encounter before he goes out into the world.
But we're supposed to believe that he loves her over the years--even after she's convicted by a court of mass murder. If possible, she looks even more grubby, plain and repulsive. She never shows us a trace of charm, wit or beauty. She's just a stolid mass of mangy hair and a plain body and she lives in a dark, depressing hovel of an apartment.
Ralph Fiennes portrays the lad as a grownup but he is so quiet and subdued and blank that his later admission to the daughter of a Nazi concentration camp is embarassing to watch. The close-up of him, in tears, and feeling so sorry for himself is cringe-worthy.
I watched this in the movie theater and am glad I did. But once was enough. It's way too long, depending on never-ending close-ups and extended pauses before the movie moves again.
This is a good movie to watch great acting. I just wish the story was more believable....more info
- Could you fall in love with a monster?
Kate Winslet won the Academy Award for Best Actress for "The Reader," and the film was nominated as well for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography and Adapted Screenplay.
The film is beautiful and touching, brutal and distressing. It raises issues that range from uncomfortable to horrific, but it does so with an even-handed view.
The story begins in 1960 Germany. David Kross plays Michael Berg starting at age 15. He contracts scarlet fever and becomes ill trying to make his way home. A kind and practical woman helps Michael get home, first washing away his vomit outside her door.
It takes several weeks for Michael to recover, but once he does, he returns to thank the woman. Her name is Hanna Schmitz and, although twice as old as Michael, she is still beautiful. She awakens sexual feelings in the teenager.
He makes a few awkward teenaged attempts at courtship. When she realizes his actual intention, she offers herself frankly and sexually, but not romantically or intimately. These scenes include a significant amount of nudity on the part of both Kross and Winslet, and it would not be a stretch to say that Hanna crosses a boundary of propriety. But Hanna also has Michael read to her. He reads "The Odyssey" and "Huckleberry Finn". Comically, she scolds him for reading "Lady Chatterley's Lover" to her while they are in a bathtub.
Hanna is a toll-taker on the trolley. Their affair lasts through the summer and Michael's 16th birthday. Hanna receives a promotion, a desk job, with the transportation company, and abruptly packs her things and leaves.
Michael does not see her again until eight years later, when he is a law student. As a part of his training Michael goes with his classmates and professor to a war crimes trial. There Michael is stunned to see Hanna again. She is on trial as one of the chief female guards at Auschwitz.
A film that initially seems almost soft-porn becomes a film about people who do nothing, or even willingly participate, when an evil as great as Hitler's final solution appears in their society. Hanna was not Hitler, or even one of the senior Nazis. In her testimony, she makes it sound as if working with the SS was only a job. In a fine scene Winslet passionately asks the court "what would YOU have done" and this scene made me ponder this question in a way that a hundred previous films or documentaries had not.
Michael discovers a key piece of information during the trial. While not exonerating Hanna, it may mitigate her sentence by almost 20 years. He is torn. Hanna also has the same information, but she is not using it to save herself. Should Michael?
Ralph Fiennes plays the adult Michael, and with every gesture he shows that Michael has been tormented by the experience. In the final scene Fiennes comes to New York to meet a woman who survived Auschwitz and was one of the key witnesses in Hanna's trial. The woman, played by Lena Olin, is appropriately suspicious of Michael and his motives. In this scene we find neither absolution for Hanna or relief for Michael's torment. But we do find a modicum of understanding, and common ground. In a world with so many diverse cultures and opinions, finding even that seems a significant accomplishment.