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.