While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. In the basement of her home, a Jewish refugee is being protected by her adoptive parents.
In 1938, the young girl Liesel Meminger is traveling by train with her mother and her younger brother when he dies. Her mother buries the boy in a cemetery by the tracks and Liesel picks up a book, "The Gravediggers Handbook", which was left on the grave of her brother and brings it with her. Liesel is delivered to a foster family in a small town and later she learns that her mother left her because she is a communist. Her stepmother, Rosa Hubermann, is a rude but caring woman and her stepfather, Hans Hubermann, is a simple kind-hearted man. Liesel befriends her next door neighbor, the boy Rudy Steiner, and they go together to the school. When Hans discovers that Liesel cannot read, he teaches her using her book and Liesel becomes an obsessed reader. During a Nazi speech where the locals are forced to burn books in a bonfire, Liesel recovers one book for her and the Mayor's wife Ilsa Hermann witnesses her action. Meanwhile Hans hides the Jewish Max Vandenburg, who is the son of a ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Emily Watson decided to stay in character all day, which meant that in between takes she was still acting as a grumpy German woman. It caused her to get into a fight at the airport when she reacted like her character would do at check-in which caused her some problems. See more »
While in the basement, Hans comments that the snowman will not melt because "it's freezing down here," yet no character's breath can be seen in the air, despite the fact that all are breathing heavily. See more »
One small fact: you are going to die. Despite every effort, no one lives forever. Sorry to be such a spoiler. My advice is when the time comes, don't panic. It doesn't seem to help.
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When a film is narrated by Death himself, you know it's not likely to be a laugh-a-minute sort of film. "The Book Thief" - a cinema feature debut by Brian Percival - starts impressively. Death stalks the skies muttering truisms about life and mortality. Decending through he clouds we see a steam train chuffing through a snowy European landscape. Decending through the train's smoke trail we enter the carriage and see Death claim his first victim of the film, all to John William's luscious (and Oscar nominated) score. Unfortunately, this memorable opening scene doesn't translate into the rest of the film.
The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel: a young girl in late 30's Nazi Germany, abandoned by her communist mother into the safer hands of an older childless couple - Hans and Rosa - played by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. The illiterate Liesel is taught to read by Hans and this fosters a burning love of books - in stark contrast to the love of burning books of the Nazis. The film centres around her relationship not only with her new adoptive parents, but with her best school friend Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch) and with Max (Ben Schnetzer) - the Jewish friend of the family who brings both a brotherly companionship and great danger into Liesel's world.
The German village life is nicely portrayed and the everyday activity counterpointed against the bizarre and terrifying goings on of historical events around them. But unfortunately, the story seems to be all over the place. I don't know the "beloved" and "critically acclaimed" novel by Markus Zusak to know whether it is the source material or the adapted screenplay (by Michael Petroni) that is at fault. But in my eyes, the story just doesn't go in any satisfactory or coherent direction. I was expecting it to be more of a harrowing Holocaust style picture, but it really wasn't (this might be attractive to many viewers). Just when you thought the film would go off in an interesting direction it veered off again down a different path. As such, it lacked any real tension or (apart from one scene) sense of danger. To me, it was just... "Meh".
The script is not helped by some clunky lines of dialogue of the "Liesel, Liesel - you are growing so big" variety, and uttered by Rush and Watson in a manner reminiscent of Olivier's execrable Jewish turn in "The Jazz Singer". Add to that a brutal ending (prepare yourself) and you end up with a rather unsatisfactory and disappointing result.
The two junior leads - Sophie Nélisse and Nico Liersch - acquit themselves well, and their touching scenes together are the best parts of the film. Ben Schnetzer's acting role as Max though was less convincing: not a great performance in my eyes.
I also spare a thought for young actor Nozomi Linus Kaisar. He must have been so thrilled to go and see this flick with his parents on the big screen, only to see his character in the end credits as "Fat Faced Goalie". It must have done wonders for his self esteem: what was the director thinking? Overall, I would suggest this is not a film to go out of your way to see at the cinema: wait for a rainy Sunday afternoon on the box for this one.
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