: The Reader
I knew zip about this other than Kate Winslet was nominated for an Oscar. (I’m not sure why; she was good, but I didn’t find her performance that remarkable.) The film surprised me. The sex is quite explicit, which I wasn’t expecting, but the story was compelling. The story is set in Germany over a number of years beginning with the main male character when he’s 15 and enters a love affair with an older woman. It’s a very interesting romance, mostly physical, but then she has him read books to her, which takes their relationship to a different level. He falls in love, but it cannot last, of course, and when she moves away he’s devastated. Years later he’s in law school and as part of a class goes to see a trial of six Nazi women for war crimes. (This is in the late sixties; I had not realized they were still prosecuting Nazis that long after the war.) One of the woman turns out to be Hannah, the woman he’d had the love affair with. The boy is torn between love and horror of Hannah’s crime. It seems that after she left him she joined the SS and committed horrible crimes. But then the boy realizes he has knowledge that can exonerate her. Should he tell? Ah, that is the dilemma. The film continues on with their interaction over many years and it’s a moving story. It’s powerfully told, though I found certain aspects of the manipulation of time confusing: at one point I had characters mixed up because I assumed the wrong thing, and other times jumped around without warning or connection. Another flaw is that the film is somewhat predictable, at least for me. At first there was a lot of mystery but as I put the pieces together I said, “Ah, this is going to happen, and this, and this,” and it happened exactly that way. Usually that annoys me, but in this case the film played out exactly the way it needed and it was all right. Despite those flaws, it’s an excellent film. I loved the emphasize on performance, for many of the scenes contain minimal dialog, with characters simply exchanging wordless looks. The boy is incredible, changing from a convincing naive kid of 15 to a more mature law student. Though somewhat explicit, I’m not sure it’s unnecessary — in retrospect it felt like it was needed to set the tone for the relationship of the two characters. We basically saw their physical love, but as they connect throughout their lives, we see there was much more to it than that. Well done. Not for all tastes, but if you enjoy thinking and good acting, this is worth seeing.