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Movies Review

The Reader : A Movie Review

Last night I watched “The Reader” on DVD.

The movie is very atmospheric, and I was brought back in time to the late 1950’s. Women with long dresses, coiffeured hairs, the trams that are all quintessential 1950’s. The character of young Michael Berg is played by young David Kross (ahhh.. that lucky young boy!) and I saw a very different Kate Winslet. I haven’t watch her movies since her “Titanic” and was mesmerised by this older, mature Winslet as Hanna Schmitz. Her intense gaze, her stone hard expression and her learnt German accent, are all what I imagine Hana Schmitz to be, but one which is much more beautiful.

I read the book last year and the movie help me to fill out all the memory gaps of the storyline of the novel, so much so that it gave me an impression that the movie has made the story runs more fluid and the emotional attachment of Michael and Hanna more vivid and intense than the novel. In a way the movie succeed in doing that, reading back the book review, I felt the movie follows very closely to the novel and captures the essence of the book very, very well.

Although it’s a serious movie, there are a few laughing moments (where the novel had none). The movie introduces us to many famous literature works (which I am not sure if the novel did, I might be wrong). Young Michael read Homer’s Odyssey, Anton Chekhov’s A Lady with the little Dog, The Lady’s Chatterly Lover to Hana; which latter happened in the bathtub scene above and Hana reprimanded young Michael, asking where he got the book, and that he shouldn’t be reading such filthy novel, and he should be ashamed of himself! Young Michael also reads from comics of Tintin adventures which are one of my favourite comics of all time. 🙂

There are a few new ideas and scenes injected into the movie which developed the characters a little more. Michael’s college years are given a bit more emphasis than the book and add weight into the huge effect of Hanna’s influence on Michael from adolescence, college years and into his adulthood. The advent of a Law professor helps to inform the viewer about the difference between law and morality, the need to link murder with an intent. The inclusion of a daughter in Michael’s life also illustrates the damage the secret had done to his life. However I felt the last scene of Michael meeting the survivor’s daughter in New York was unnecessary and it was painful for me to watch Ralph Fiennes being snubbed by the woman, whom Hanna had decided to leave some money for.

The role of Hanna is a very bold move Kate Winslet took in her acting career, one which took her to a great height as an artist. The idea of an older woman making love with a teenager is a perverse one for me, and the movie contains frontal nude scenes; but by the end of it I felt Kate Winslet and David Kross look so comfortable together that I was convinced what they (Hana and Michael) had together was something very special.

By the end of the movie, as in the novel, I was emotional moved by Michael’s relentless recording and Hana’s attempt to learn to read and write. Other critics of the novel feel that Hana does not deserve any sympathy for what she had done, but towards the end of our lives we all learnt to repent and forgive the one who trespassed and perhaps exercise a bountiful capacity to forgive. It is one of the most thought provoking movie and novel I have read in my life. The novel was brilliant and the movie was superb. I think I will go out and grab a copy of “The Reader” and re-read it again.

Click here for my book review (contain spoiler!).

P/S: Winslet won the 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 for her role in the film. The film itself was nominated for several other major awards including the Academy Award for Best Picture.


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


11 thoughts on “The Reader : A Movie Review

  1. I think you’ve summed up the movie beautifully. I too was disturbed about the idea of such older woman and a teenage boy but it was done very tastefully. And you’re not the only one I felt sorry for Hanna at the end. I think I should really consider reading the book now.

    Posted by jessicabookworm | September 12, 2010, 4:20 pm
  2. The book was really great and so intense. I haven’t seen the movie yet, will have do change that 🙂 From your description it sounds very well-made, and I enjoy seeing Winslet, especially the last coupleof years.

    Just something that irritates me, why would she have a German accent?? The characters are German, the setting is Germany, and it’s just transferred into English. It makes no sense whatsoever to have Hanna speak with an accent.

    Posted by Bina | September 13, 2010, 12:19 pm
    • @Bina, I know I know.. The German accent is annoying (just kidding!), but the story setting is in Germany, perhaps the director wants to stay authentic and faithful to the novel/setting/author I suppose… but the weird thing is that towards the end of the movie, I got so used to these characters talking that I think I hear them speaking in their native accent and the German accent sort of faded off… or maybe my ears had got accustomed to it? I’ll watch it again to confirm it! ha ha 😀

      Posted by JoV | September 13, 2010, 8:36 pm
  3. Wow … you churn out contents in your website like no others! I am finding it hard to consume them all … ha ha ha.

    Winslet does seem to age quite a fair bit compares to Titanic days eh?

    Posted by Wilfrid | September 14, 2010, 3:42 pm
    • Wilfrid, I have got some time on my hand these few weeks, so what better way to use my time than read and blog!
      Winslet does aged a fair bit. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to watch older women than young lady act ! 😉

      Posted by JoV | September 14, 2010, 9:08 pm
      • Erm … I prefer the other way round. With some exceptions of course … hehehe. What I meant was there are quite a few actresses who have aged gracefully. May even look hotter. But I can’t say for Winslet.

        And yes, I observe that you have pumped out more entries. Way to go!

        Posted by Wilfrid | September 15, 2010, 11:52 pm
  4. Came through Wilfrid’s blog. 😉

    I watched this film too. I think you digested the film pretty well but I watched this film without reading the book so there’s a slight difference in my perspective. In the film, Hanna was supposed to be illiterate. I recalled reading some research documents on reactions of literates and illiterates, they tend to differ. I think it’s quite a challenge for Kate Winslet to act convincingly as an illiterate. The little surprising smile and giggle on her face as young Michael read to her. Hearing was her main ability. I thought Kate pretty well in that aspect.

    The film also mirrors a little of reality. Sometimes, things we did aeons ago do come back and “haunt” us in a certain way. I always like such films that aligns with reality.

    Posted by Ed | September 17, 2010, 6:29 pm
    • Thanks for sharing Ed. You raised an interesting point. I have taken literacy for granted that I can’t imagine how it is for someone who couldn’t read and write.

      I remember a scene when Young Michael was about to read a book and he said it is going to be boring story, and with the wave of her hand, a nod of her head, she encouraged Michael to go on, a subtle gesture that seems encouragement for the uncertain Michael but really it was to fulfil her immediate craving for the story. She is brilliant. She deserves to win the Oscar.

      Posted by JoV | September 17, 2010, 8:20 pm

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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