A poet falls in love with an art student who gravitates to his bohemian lifestyle -- and his love of heroin. Hooked as much on one another as they are on the drug, their relationship alternates between states of oblivion, self-destruction, and despair.
THE READER opens in post-war Germany when teenager Michael Berg becomes ill and is helped home by Hanna, a stranger twice his age. Michael recovers from scarlet fever and seeks out Hanna to thank her. The two are quickly drawn into a passionate but secretive affair. Michael discovers that Hanna loves being read to and their physical relationship deepens. Hanna is enthralled as Michael reads to her from "The Odyssey," "Huck Finn" and "The Lady with the Little Dog." Despite their intense bond, Hanna mysteriously disappears one day and Michael is left confused and heartbroken. Eight years later, while Michael is a law student observing the Nazi war crime trials, he is stunned to find Hanna back in his life - this time as a defendant in the courtroom. As Hanna's past is revealed, Michael uncovers a deep secret that will impact both of their lives. THE READER is a story about truth and reconciliation, about how one generation comes to terms with the crimes of another. Written by
The Weinstein Company
In a 1976 scene, the Calculator seen on the desk when Michael is reading "The Odyssey" at night is presumably an OEM-Version of the Casio LC-403B. This calculator came on the market around 1985. See more »
Stephen Daldry knows how to tell a story, knows how important it is to
make each of those characters relevant and indispensable, more
importantly, emotions are finely portrayed, but it is the cerebral
quality of his work that both impresses and irritates the audience.
Somehow, he let go of his control and made "Billy Elliot" exuberant and
glorious, with each note and emotion spilling out of the screen. His
restraint might have lessened the impact of the dark nature of the
tragedy in "The Hours"; somehow the balance continues in "The Reader",
a powerful testament to the complexity of humans and their
interactions. In "The Reader" learning occurs, consequences, origins,
and motivations are carefully explored and analyzed, leaving out some
of the mystery for us to decide. Choice is key here, and some choices
are carry a bigger weight than others.
The marvelous Kate Winslet, who should be honoured for the quality of
her work, with as much recognition as it is humanly possible portrays
the central character of the story, a woman whose life might have been
shaped by unfortunate events, mostly undisclosed to us, and some of her
own genetic makeup. We, as the lawyers and the students in the film,
get to evaluate the evidence and choose to make a statement to justify
hers and our own ethical standpoints. It is the intricate and deft
interpretation of Hannah that anchors the story. Although, the story
follows Michael and their relationship from his teenage years to the
devastating conclusion, the film succeeds because Winslet is able to
show every bit of the confusion, rationale, and emotion that her
character possesses. She seems cold and detached, but as we look, we
discover that there is more to her than we can see from the moments we
see her on the screen. Hannah carries secrets inside her soul, somehow
keeping herself alive, surviving, living an austere existence that
hypnotizes, seduces, and repulses those she encounters.
Michael is seduced by this mysterious woman, and his own future is
shaped by those moments they spend together. What he doesn't realize is
how big of an effect their time together will have on his life. Their
early scenes are powerful and presented with a strong sense of realism
and brevity. They're probable the best of the film and might have to be
reviewed to understand how key they are to the further growth of
Michael's life and reactions to others. Winslet does not say much, but
her manipulations provoke her desired effects.
As their paths diverge and meet, their relationship changes as one
observes the dramatic turn of events that brings them together again,
and how Michael's actions have dire consequences for both of them. It
is during this period that we think we begin to see how relative
everything: what is moral and immoral, logic and emotional, simple and
complex. Highs and lows are hit again, as we become more involved in
one of the most powerful and dramatic moments of their lives.
In the final act of the film is when Winslet and Feines do some of
their most outstanding work ever; she even surpassing her masterful
turns in "Revolutionary Road", and "Eternal Sunshine". Every gesture,
every look, every enunciation add details and shed light to who they
were, are and might become. It is subtle work, haunting, and
bewitching, the work very few people are able to do.
"The Reader" reaches its amazing conclusion with a couple of scenes
that might break whatever little strength we might still have left.
"The Reader" isn't an important work, but it is a work that should be
recognized by the quality of its work, a finely tuned and produced
piece of cinema by people who recognize how magical, powerful, and
intelligent films can be.
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