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No extended fight scenes. No unnecessary pyrotechnics. Simply a story
of ordinary people conducting themselves in extraordinary fashion when
faced with the hell of Hitler's Third Reich and World War II.
The literary vehicle of Death as the Narrator is a masterstroke, as is the overall emphasis of words/books/art overcoming evil.
And it's all done with compassion for children at their best and most vulnerable, and adults bypassing the convention of the era to display kindness, caring and understanding.
An understated classic, there aren't enough movies like this being produced.
And that's a damn shame.
This is without a doubt one of the most riveting, thought-provoking,
and utterly powerful movies for young people (or any people, for that
matter). Unlike most movies for young people, which usually encourage
selfishness, lust, and who knows what else, this is a film that
promotes such qualities as self-sacrifice, courage in the face of
unspeakable difficulties, and using your life to make a difference for
Based on Markus Zusak's novel, The Book Thief expertly tells the story of a young German girl named Liesel, who is thrust into the horrors of World War II Germany and its many complications. The scope of the story is seen through the eyes of Liesel, making it quite an intimate tale that is less about war and more about the importance of remaining human in inhuman surroundings, and affecting those around you in a positive and profound way.
The film is hauntingly beautiful, and moves at an effortless pace- not too fast, not too slow- allowing the viewers to become immersed in the realities of Liesel's situation. Lovely Sophie Nelisse is stunningly perfect in the role of Liesel, capturing both the bright-eyed innocence and the eventual world-weary quality needed for the role. Liesel's good-natured friend Rudy is also expertly and realistically portrayed by young Nico Liersch. It is a delight to watch such wonderful young actors at work. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, of course, are their usual extraordinary selves as Liesel's adoptive parents.
This is truly a movie that is not just for young people. It operates on many levels, as a commentary on the disastrous effects of World War II or a poignant tale of one small soul fighting for her own sense of humanity. While it might be a bit intense for small children, a film such as this should be mandatory viewing for older children and teenagers- a thoughtful and heart-tugging reminder of the fragility of life, and the importance of looking beyond yourself. It is the sort of film that will leave viewers young and old just a bit speechless.
Those familiar with the 2005 award winning and best-selling novel by
Australian author Markus Zusak will not be disappointed with the
theatrical version which differs from the book in only minor details.
Both tell the story of a preadolescent girl who is adopted into a
German family living in a small village in 1938, and then by following
her life we get to view war on the home front for Germany. Nazi
rallies, anti-Jewish pogroms, Hitler Youth groups, conscription, book
burning, daylight bombing, propaganda films and posters, and the whole
gamut of events are seen from her perspective.
This isn't the first film to adopt this perspective. "The Diary of Anne Frank" is the classic example, but more recently, "No Place on Earth" (2013) covered some of the same ground as did "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008) and especially "Lore" (2012).
"The Book Thief" has wonderful photography by Florian Ballhaus, an excellent musical score by Golden Globe and Oscar winning John Williams ("Schindler's List", "ET", "Star Wars"), and best of all, marvelous acting from Sophie Nelisse as the young girl, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as her adoptive parents, and Ben Schnetzer as the Jewish boy they hide. Many of the core scenes with Nelisse, Watson, and Rush should be required viewing at any acting school.
Hats off too to young Nico Liersch who plays a boyhood friend of Nelisse.
If the film has any fault at all, it is the decision by the film makers to try to walk a fine line between drama and fable. Having "Death" as the narrator right from the start seems to suggest fable, but the story itself veers sharply to drama for most of the 2+ hours, and then, noticeably at the end, reverts to fable. Some viewers may find this disconcerting. But the power of the story and the acting generally compensate for this short coming.
9.5. I'd love to give it a 10, but having read the book, I know there
were a couple of things they could have done to make it even better.
The film was stunning nonetheless.
I had very high expectations going in and honestly, from the trailer, I was prepared for a let down. Nothing of the sort. The scenery was breathtaking and captivating, and I felt transported, insulated from the realities of a terrible war in a terrible time by the endearingly human performances of the actors and the depth they lent to their characters.
The only complaints I have would be slight spoilers for both the movie and the book and since I highly recommend both, I'll save them.
A powerfully emotional treat you won't regret. Go see it!
This is a flat out amazing film. It's nuanced, extremely thoughtful and
features some of the strongest performances of the year. If I had a
vote, we'd get another young teenage girl nominated for "best actress"
in a lead role for Sophie Nelisse's amazing work. Everyone's work here
is award worthy. Sure, the subject matter may seem like a rehash (The
Diary of Anne Frank"/"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"/The Pianist") but
it really isn't. It's fresh, and packs the most emotional impact of any
film that I've seen all year. Captivating and extremely powerful, the
film is hauntingly beautiful. It moves at an effortless pace which
allows the viewer to become immersed in the realities of Liesel's
situation. That pace may not be for everyone but I found it to be
perfect. Everything breaths properly and every connection made is
heartfelt and meaningful. The literary vehicle of death as the narrator
really is a masterstroke and works perfectly. It starts the film and
finishes but is never intrusive.
I honestly feel this film is an instant classic. It really stayed with me after watching it and I'm still moved by its impact.
For the most part, you will come out seeing this film with what you
expect. "The Book Thief" takes place during the Holocaust, a subject
seen in many other renowned films, but the beauty of this story comes
from the perspective viewers get - that of a child's.
There is an excellent blend of different pieces that move the film along well - the violence and the intensity of the time period, the touching relationships between friends and family, and the humor they all share. Though it's nothing new, the writing and lines are still great and make the characters very likable. Performances by the entire cast, no matter how small or large a role they play, are certainly deserving of praise. Even with all the dramatic events surrounding them, it is easy to get caught in the relationship between Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as the familiar nagging parents of Liesel.
The various sets of the film - backed up with some clean, beautiful cinematography (yet nothing too astounding) - show several different parts of the town, but you are still left wanting to see more of this world. Which is where the film falls in general. For the majority of the movie, you are invested into these characters and you follow their time through WWII, and much goes on. The ending, however, comes rather quickly and you are left with that same feeling of wanting to know more. Not just of the ending, but everything before. It seems every time a moment - of suspense, of sadness, or happiness - comes, it holds on for a short while, but cuts off before you can fully take it in.
Still, the film gives a touching story to watch. The subject matter is obviously very serious, but the story of "The Book Thief" allows a wide range of people to watch this and understand, be it a young child or an adult. The characters are the best part of this film and I found them very enjoyable. The film is rather traditional and almost doesn't fit in with the rest of today's movies, but rather reminded me of many other older classics.
If this film is not on most Top 10 Lists then what I think about critics will hold. As the saying goes " I laughed, I cried, i felt good. This film shows hope in the face of the worst that life serves up, and wants you to come back for more. The acting from top to bottom was fantastic. Geoffrey Rush gives a wonderful performance that should get him an Oscar nomination. This is by no means a feel good movie, and I wouldn't bring younger kids to see it, but it will make them think about. Best of all look for the answer to the many questions this film should leave in their minds. Questions of did this happen, and if it did, WHY? I like that as in other films about this time, it focused on the ordinary people of Germany not just the victims of the Holocaust. How their lives were touched by the insanity of the masses and how some never lost sight of what it was to care about others.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First things first: I haven't read the book. This despite the fact that
I've worked in a bookstore for nearly eight years. I've always meant to
read it, but when I won tickets to the Mill Valley Film Festival
premiere, I had less than 24 hours until the screening.
The Book Thief is a wonderful film, nuanced and thoughtful, and buoyed by strong performances from Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and newcomer Sophie Nélisse. We watch as Germany falls under the storm of war, the country slowly descending into madness as we follow one girl who finds a home in the care of a couple at odds with the Fascist ideologies sweeping the nation. Soon Liesel (Nélisse) meets Rudy, a neighborhood boy, and Max, a young Jewish man her new parents must hide in their basement.
Built around the external drama of the war and its consequences is Lisel's discovery of reading and books. Words are a valuable commodity in her ravaged society, and the care paid by the filmmakers and actors to accentuate the importance of stories to Lisel's survival makes this movie all the more compelling. The cinematography, editing, and script are all excellent as well.
In short, The Book Thief is the kind of film you could show your children as a way to first begin a discussion of World War II and the Holocaust, but it never takes shortcuts from darker subject matter to reach this role. An excellent movie.
Orange Wednesday's are a weekly escape from the monotony of the working
world (New Teacher - Little money - Stressed - Used to do absolutely
nothing at Uni). Therefore over the last couple of years, as you can
imagine, the cinema has been overused and a plethora of films have been
watched, reviewed and loved. Being a sap myself and an ability to
completely immerse myself within a movie; the usual comment coming out
of the cinema is: "That was the best film I've ever seen!"...
Obviously that is never actually true, and probably isn't for this film, however I again came out the cinema saying the same thing. Within the first two months of this year: Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club...Now The Book Thief!
Now I had no idea what the film was about before stepping in the cinema, except a girl who steals books in the war. Even half way through I thought this film was a heart warming film about the war through a child's eyes. I was WRONG! If you know nothing about the story, the film is beautifully written, acted, portrayed (Life of Pi creators, done it again) and has bags of shocks, emotion and heartache. The other lad who viewed the film with me(In the same boat work wise) I have never seen cry. That man was broken!
The young actress, is going to be a superstar. Geoffrey Rush, although portrayed a "Disney Dad" as some reviewers suggested; was inspirational and perfectly cast, when compared to the book, which I have now read.
Another reviewer trashed the use of "bits of German" - You sir, are a fool. This is not Hollywood tact, the book does exactly the same thing and therefore the film took that same role.
Another reviewer gave the film "1 star" (Mainly due to the film not being realistic in 3 parts, which all played no real role in the film and therefore a poor point to make) It's a story based on some real life events, not a true story.
Rant over though, this film truly moved me (23 year old male) I know, I hid it well in the cinema! The film is just a Must see and although I probably wouldn't rate it 10 star (I never rate that highly) I felt I needed to raise the profile, due to people who have too much time on their hands to pick holes in minor parts of films and have to have their films more like a documentary, then a masterpiece for all warps of life and ages.
I will be using this in school as soon as it is out and will be a fantastic tool for developing writing!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I bet you have seen many movies that have narration but I bet you haven't seen one like this. In this movie, the narrator is Death. The Book Thief is about a young girl whose brother dies and her mother abandons her - all at the age of 11. She's adopted by an older couple in Nazi Germany. Her foster father teaches her how to read which lights a fire inside of her to read and read and read. Again, since this is Nazi Germany, books are very hard to find. The only way she can get more books is to "borrow" them. Also, her family agrees to hide a young Jewish man in their basement which puts the young girl's family at great risk. But, the young girl and the young man become very good friends, helping each other through hard times. During this time, there are many people dying so Death is very nearby and has a lot to say. The Book Thief is all told from Death's perspective. The lead characters are the young girl, Liesel Meminger played by up- and-coming actress Sophie Nelisse and her foster father and mother played by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. These characters try to live a normal life while fighting for it. One of my favorite scenes is when a friend of Liesel's, Rudy, goes to the running track and covers himself in mud so he can look like Olympic Track Star Jessie Owens. I like this scene because it shows how Rudy didn't believe what Hitler was saying and supported Liesel and her family. The look and sound of this film helps convey the emotional story of Liesel and her friends and family. The sets and costumes are all beautiful and really portray 1940s Germany. The music is sad but also, hopeful. The cinematography is beautiful and also lets us see the harshness of their lives. The message of this movie is "to stand up for what you believe and don't let a group of people tell you otherwise." I recommend this movie to ages 9 and up. Although this is a sweet passionate film it does take place in Nazi Germany which includes violence and death. I give this movie five out of five stars because the idea of having the narrator be Death really grabbed my attention and held my attention to this unbelievable story to the very end. Reviewed by KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Canela R.
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