Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Reader

STEVE - Director Stephen Daldry presents an emotional roller coaster of a movie in his Oscar nominated film The Reader.

The story is about Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes). The film begins in 1995 with a fifty-two-year-old Michael (Ralph Fiennes) coldly turning away his previous one night stand and then quickly flashes back to 1958.

As a fifteen-year-old Michael (David Kross) became entangled in a sexual affair with a mid-thirties Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) who has only one rule. Read first, sex after. And with this he returns day after day reading her Homer, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare, and then sleeping with her.

Their relationship quickly develops from an erotic to love affair (for Michael at least), until one day he returns to find that Hanna has mysteriously disappeared. Crushed, Michael forever carries the pain Hanna has inflicted on him until 8 years later, when in law school, he attends a Nazi war crime trail with Hanna on the stand. Michael quickly discovers evidence that could possible save Hanna from a life in prison or worse, but can’t decide what to do with the information. His past still haunts him as much as Hanna’s past haunts her. It’s Michael’s ultimate decision that forever changes not only Hanna’s life, but his.

David Hare weaves multiple themes and subject matter into his adapted screenplay. On one level you have a deeply passionate (and somewhat disturbing) “love” affair. Here we see the joys and deep pains of intimacy, including life-lasting damage that can be inflicted in intimate moments.

On a separate level we see a young generation attempting to understand and process the sins of previous generations. Why their parents and grandparents sat idly by while millions were murdered. Why they live in such a dark shadow. It’s these complex ideas and more that pushes the film into the Oscar category of Best Picture.

However, it’s with the films many themes and implications that will hinder the movie from winning the category. The screenplay just becomes too weighted, and by the end of the film loses some of its zeal and vision in the background.

There are so many wonderful things to say about this movie, giving it plenty of reasons for it to have its well earned five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Yet, it sadly falls short of becoming a great cinematic classic. Here’s to next years Holocaust movie.

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