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The Reader (2008)

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Post-WWII Germany: Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Berg re-encounters his former lover as she defends herself in a war-crime trial.

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Writers:

(screenplay), (book)
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2,062 ( 71)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 24 wins & 47 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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...
...
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Friederike Becht ...
Matthias Habich ...
Peter Berg
Frieder Venus ...
Doctor
Marie-Anne Fliegel ...
Hanna's Neighbour (as Marie Anne Fliegel)
Hendrik Arnst ...
Woodyard Worker
Rainer Sellien ...
Torsten Michaelis ...
Sports Master
Moritz Grove ...
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Storyline

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

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

How far would you go to protect a secret? See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some scenes of sexuality and nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

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Language:

| | |

Release Date:

30 January 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Leitor  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$168,051 (USA) (12 December 2008)

Gross:

$34,180,954 (USA) (1 May 2009)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Angelina Jolie was considered for the lead role. See more »

Goofs

When Older Michael first gets into his car, it is completely covered with dew or raindrops. In the following scene, the car is totally dry. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Brigitte: You didn't wake me.
Michael Berg: You were sleeping.
Brigitte: You let me sleep because you can't bear to have breakfast with me.
See more »

Crazy Credits

There are no opening credits, other than the studio logo. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The 85th Annual Academy Awards (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Musik liegt in der Luft
Written by Heinz Gietz, Kurt Feltz
Performed by Caterina Valente
Courtesy of M.A.T. Musice Theme Licensing Ltd.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
The Reader Movie Review from The Massie Twins
12 December 2008 | by (www.GoneWithTheTwins.com) – See all my reviews

The Reader is off to a brilliant start with convincing characters, superb acting and looming tragedy, but seems to lose its sure footing as it heads toward a conclusion that feels partly carelessly planned and mainly lacking direction. It decreases the most potent revelations and resides on a powerful love that was successfully sustained only during the beginning. Once again the order of events are jumbled on the timeline and an unexpectedly long ending detracts from the impact of the most poignant moments, not least of which is an undying love story that overshadows the historical importance of the war crime trials that set up a heartbreaking reunion.

In 1958 West Germany 15-year-old Michael Berg (David Kross) is escorted home by a mysterious woman after becoming ill. Diagnosed with scarlet fever and bedridden for three months, he eventually seeks out Hanna (Kate Winslet) to thank her for her aid. Soon the two begin an unlikely (and very graphic) affair that lasts the duration of the summer – Hanna is distant and uncompassionate, but Michael finds himself hopelessly in love (he insists on knowing her name by the third day they are together). Before each sexual tryst Michael reads to Hanna – starting with his school assignments; a German play, Homer's Odyssey, Huckleberry Finn, The Lady with the Little Dog and eventually he even reads comic strips.

One day Hanna vanishes, and Michael is left to return to school, study law, and carry on relationships with people his own age. In 1966, while attending a trial for German guard crimes against Jewish prisoners, he spies Hanna as one of the defendants. Years later, torn between remembering the great flame they shared and condemning her for her crimes, Michael is haunted by the trial and determined to sort out his feelings of guilt and love.

It's certainly a unique angle to show a sympathetic lead character toward Holocaust involvement. As author Bernhard Schlink wrote about his novel, on which the film is based, "The Reader is not a story about redemption or forgiveness. It is about how my generation of Germans came to terms with what the generation before us had done." He challenges the viewer with transcending guilt, the ability to choose love and the complexity of monstrous actions undertaken by ordinary people. The film is splendidly emotional and comes very close to being phenomenal. The drawn out conclusion is a meditation on the power of love and its ability to overcome exceptionally trying junctures – and even to overcome time itself. Morally devastating but not emotionally involving enough to attain instant masterpiece status, The Reader still boasts outstanding performances, a beautiful score and a moving tale of complex affection.


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