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The Reader (2008)

R  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  30 January 2009 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 179,696 users   Metascore: 58/100
Reviews: 364 user | 299 critic | 38 from Metacritic.com

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.



(screenplay), (book)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 23 wins & 44 nominations. See more awards »



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


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


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


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:






| | |

Release Date:

30 January 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Leitor  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

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


$34,180,954 (USA) (1 May 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


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


When Michael reads Hannah the Odyssey, he reads from the Robert Fagles translation, not published until 1996. See more »


[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 »


Featured in 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (2009) See more »


Don't Look Back
Written by Jackson C. Frank
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A victim's guilt
4 January 2009 | by (San Francisco) – See all my reviews

The film is a series of profound moral dilemmas—while contrived by the author, they are fair questions—that resonate deeply in the 21st Century: The role of guilt in victims, perpetrators, individuals and collectively, as well as justice, forgiveness, redemption, shame and, of course, literacy and its role in Western thought.

All this is a pretty heady mix for a film, but Stephen Daldry (as with "The Hours" ) makes literary conceit play very naturally here. David Hare's screenplay and the remarkable cinematography of the always remarkable Roger Deakins together with a sensitive score by Nico Muhly, this is indeed rarefied film-making.

But the actors are what drag the audience into this story. David Kross is amazing as the young Michael who has to play a range of virginal innocent to wizened and bitter. It's the key role in the film, and we're all lucky he was found to play this role. And the ever confounding Kate Winslet. What an amazing career for this young actress! Running through a list of her credits, she has some of the best performances of the last decade: "Holy Smoke," "Eternal Sunshine…," "Iris," "Finding Neverland," "Little Children." But here she does something very different. Playing what amounts to a monster, we see that they too are human. Not many actresses could bring this off, but it may be her greatest accomplishment to date.

Ralph Fiennes brings a continuity to the work David Kross begins, and there's a brief appearance by Lena Olin who commands the dignity the role deserves.

I'm puzzled at the lukewarm reception to this film. I almost missed seeing it. And it turned out to be one of my favorite and the most heart-rending films of the year. All involved should be very proud.

276 of 328 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
What is the book that has Hannah crying? tomtac
Question about the chronology iammariian
Why didn't Michael tell someone she couldn't have written the report? icefairy88
Why wouldn't Hanna confess to being iliterate? FrauMachina
Hanna confesses that she wrote the report henriksemailskriv
What was wrong with Hanna? fer_sm90
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