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
The Latin lines Michael quotes to Hanna are "Quo, quo scelesti ruitis? Aut cur dexteris / aptantur enses conditi?" These are the opening lines of Horace's 7th Epode, a short poem where he expresses outrage at the fact that his countrymen are still engaged in civil war. "Villains, where are you rushing to? Why are your hands / Grasping those swords that were sheathed?" (translation A.S. Kline). The Greek lines he quotes are the opening stanza of Sappho's 16th fragment: (transliterated) "Oi men ippeon stroton, oi de pesdon, / oi de naon phais' epi gan melainan / emmenai kalliston, ego de ken' ot- / to tis eratai". "Some say a host of horsemen, others of infantry, and others of ships, is the most beautiful thing on the dark earth: but I say, it is what you love." (translation Denys Page). See more »
When Michael is making the tapes, we see a notebook where he lists his recordings between 4 August 77 and 10 October 77. One of the entries is: Heinrich Böll, Women in a River Landscape. This novel was first published in 1985, so Michael couldn't have possibly read it in 1977. (Someone probably confused this title with another novel of Böll's, "Group Portrait With Lady", about the life of a woman born in 1922, which came out in 1970 and was very well received and popular at the time.) See more »
Winslet Impressive In This Two-Movies-In-One Story
Kate Winslet is just outstanding in this very interesting film that is almost two stories-in-one. The first part is a sexual story of an older woman having affairs with a teenage boy and the second part is her war crimes tale and what happens afterward. The first is a somewhat happy jaunt of a short story and the second is a very serious and depressing story. That's where Winslet really shines. Obviously, she's developed into an an outstanding actress.
The second part is what most people, I assume, will remember about this film. Can "Hanna Schmitz," a Nazi employee (so to speak), who was part of concentration camps, be a sympathetic character? To me, that's what it looked like that's the question the story was asking. The answer may have come in the final minutes of the movie when her ex-lover "Michael Berg," now grown up and played by Ralph Fiennes, confronts a survivor of the camp. That, too, was very intense and interesting scene. Lena Olin is riveting as "Rose/Illana Mather."
"The Reader" was full of quiet, but intense scenes. This is a very thought-provoking film, especially for one that doesn't start off that way but look almost like some soft-porn flick to get our attention. It is anything but that.
For Germans, this film must bring out many emotions and thoughts. Guilt and forgiveness are just two of the issues that are dealt with in this unique film. "Hanna Schmitz" turns out to be an incredibly simple-yet-complex person, unlike any I've encountered on film in a long time. You see her in all kinds of light, both good and bad.
Kudos, too, to David Kross' acting as the young Michael Berg. It must be strange for someone his age (barely turned 18) to do the scenes he did with 30-something Winslet.
Overall, a very different and excellent film that stays with you and makes you ponder its main characters.
76 of 83 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?