7.6/10
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399 user 293 critic

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
1,029 ( 440)
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

Official Sites:

Official site [Germany]

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
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When selling the rights to his novel, Bernhard Schlink insisted that the film be shot in English. See more »

Goofs

When the movie starts in retro history and we see Michael go back to thank Hanna after his sickness and he sees her put on the pantyhose, it's labeled as 'Neustadt, West Germany, 1958.' Pantyhose weren't invented nor available on store shelves until 1959 - almost a year later. 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 The Orange British Academy Film Awards (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
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
An insight into the humanity of the inhumane
20 February 2010 | by topz-1See all my reviews

Before I start reviewing, let me say something personal: As a German, one can hardly watch movies about the Holocaust, WWII or any related topic unbiased. As I have discovered myself, no German family is without a history related to the Third Reich, almost none are without grave guilt, or at least the fear thereof, and most who say otherwise either lie knowingly, or simply try to evade further inquiry.

Reading some of the other reviews, I realized that for me, the movie conveyed something slightly, but decisively different: It is not so much about understanding HOW people could ever do the things they did, but rather how it is possible, that people we love, and people that have been loved by people we love could be so guilty and so loving, so despicable and lovable at the same time. It is about how we expect the guilt to show up somehow, how we expect to know the killer, the monster, at first sight and say: how could anyone not have seen it? Yet we have to admit sooner or later, that we were wrong, or were we? The question really is: How could I have ever loved someone who did things as horrible and disgusting as Hannah did? And just as much: If I am unmerciful now, having learned of their guilt, is it because they did what they did, or because they disappointed my own belief in their innocence?

At one point, Hanna Schmitz asks the judge: "What would you have done?", and I think that therein lies an even more disturbing and unsettling question: What would I have done? What would you have done? How can anyone know for sure what WE would done? It is too easy to think of oneself as morally sound, with a firm belief in what is right and wrong. It's what Germans call the "mercy of late birth" - the luxury of not having been in the position to make that choice.

So, what made this movie worth giving the full 10 points out of 10? It is well-crafted, well-played, believable, at times even beautiful. It captures both the fascination Michael feels with Hannah, and his disbelief, even disgust while exploring the ugly truth about her past. It conveys the struggle between our compassion and the reluctance to show mercy against the ones who did not. It leaves the viewer with the same, disturbing questions that have not been answered sufficiently in the past 60 years (nor will they ever be). It does not provide simple answers, but rather raises more questions, left to be unanswered. As Lena Olin's Character says: "If you want Catharsis, go to the theater!"

Other than providing beautiful, well-toned cinematography, a well-written script, love of detail and convincing performances even by the supporting cast - what more can you expect from a truly great movie?


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