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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.

Director:

Stephen Daldry

Writers:

David Hare (screenplay), Bernhard Schlink (book)
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Popularity
1,774 ( 101)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 25 wins & 47 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ralph Fiennes ... Michael Berg
Jeanette Hain ... Brigitte
David Kross ... Young Michael Berg
Kate Winslet ... Hanna Schmitz
Susanne Lothar ... Carla Berg
Alissa Wilms ... Emily Berg
Florian Bartholomäi ... Thomas Berg
Friederike Becht Friederike Becht ... Angela Berg
Matthias Habich ... Peter Berg
Frieder Venus Frieder Venus ... Doctor
Marie-Anne Fliegel Marie-Anne Fliegel ... Hanna's Neighbour (as Marie Anne Fliegel)
Hendrik Arnst Hendrik Arnst ... Woodyard Worker
Rainer Sellien ... Teacher
Torsten Michaelis Torsten Michaelis ... Sports Master
Moritz Grove Moritz Grove ... Holger
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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:

Unlock the mystery. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | Germany

Language:

English | German | Greek | Latin

Release Date:

30 January 2009 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

O Leitor See more »

Filming Locations:

Germany See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$168,051, 14 December 2008, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$34,194,407

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$113,019,290
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

David Kross' mother was initially reluctant to let her son make the film as it meant 4 months out of school. He was only allowed to pursue the role if he passed his exams. 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

Featured in At the Movies: Episode #6.2 (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Pueri Hebraeorum
Written by Giovanni Palestrina (as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina)
Performed by The Philharmonischer Kinderchor Dresden
Conducted by Professor Jürgen Becker
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A Great Read
10 January 2009 | by moutonbear25See all my reviews

We don't know. We think we do but we don't. We make decisions or sometimes decisions are made for us but we think we've made them. Then suddenly, there we are. We can't be certain how we got there or where we will be when everything settles but we do know that we are alive. Some experiences are life altering and we can run from them or embrace them. Staying to see them through though can bring incredible bliss but also tormented turmoil. We just never know. One such experience was had by a young Michael Berg (David Kross) and is chronicled in Stephen Daldry's THE READER. How could he know that when he pulled into an alley to be sick that he would meet the woman who would shape his entire life? How could he know that getting close to her would pull him the furthest he's ever been from himself?

Of course, when you're a sixteen-year-old boy and a woman who looks like Kate Winslet disrobes in front of you in the privacy of her bathroom, how much thought really goes into the decision that has presented itself? However little it is, it is certainly less than is warranted. This is especially true in West Germany of 1958. This is a Germany that is uncertain how to proceed, how to be its new self in the eyes of the world and the eyes of its very own future generations. Winslet plays Hanna Schmitz, a compassionate woman but also abrasive and stern. Winslet strikes the perfect balance between directness and desire in Schmitz, making her complexities part of her appeal. She is a good fifteen years older than the young Berg and she knows much better than he of her country's history. What he knows, he has read in books, been taught in school. What she knows, she lived first hand. So when the two come together, naked in each other's arms, the meeting is as redemptive as it is passionate. Berg is just happy to be in love and having sex but Schmitz is washing herself clean with the youthful vigor of Germany's tomorrow.

The summer ends and so does the affair, as one would expect. Just when it would seem that the two would never meet again, life steps in to ensure that past decisions, perhaps made in haste, can come to see their consequences. Berg has grown some and is a college man, studying to be a lawyer, when he catches sight of Hanna Schmitz again. Their latest chance encounter is far less exciting though as he sees her on a class outing to a courthouse. Schmitz is on trial for crimes against humanity for her time as an officer in the Nazi party during the Second World War. Berg's memory of his first love would now become a question of his own morality. How could he love someone who was now accused of such atrocities? How could he be so intimate with someone he apparently never truly knew? And yet, now that he knows her past, does he really know how her past came to be? After all, what is the face of evil? Is it Hanna Schmitz or is it something incredibly bigger than her?

Ralph Fiennes is the future of Germany. He plays Berg as an adult. His life is orderly, very clean, crisp and cold. He made decisions that made him the man he is and he can never say whether they were the right ones or not. What he can see is that we all make decisions that either hurt or harm other people and that the atrocities committed by his past generations are not as far outside the realm of understanding as he might have originally thought. More importantly, redemption is not that far either.


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