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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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(screenplay), (book)
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1,601 ( 79)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 25 wins & 47 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Michael Berg
... Brigitte
... Young Michael Berg
... Hanna Schmitz
... Carla Berg
... Emily Berg
... Thomas Berg
Friederike Becht ... Angela Berg
... Peter Berg
Frieder Venus ... Doctor
Marie-Anne Fliegel ... Hanna's Neighbour (as Marie Anne Fliegel)
Hendrik Arnst ... Woodyard Worker
... Teacher
Torsten Michaelis ... Sports Master
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:

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:

|

Language:

| | |

Release Date:

30 January 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Leitor  »

Filming Locations:

 »

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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

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| |

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Reader is the first English speaking role of German actor David Kross although he had previously played lead roles in German movies such as Tough Enough (2006) and Krabat (2008). See more »

Goofs

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 »

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 66th Annual Golden Globe 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
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
An insight into the humanity of the inhumane
20 February 2010 | by See 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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