I was absolutely blown away by this film. There have been so many films with promise this year, but this is the first film I’ve seen that actually achieves all it sets out to do.
Even though this is a film that deals with a topic that has been discussed before many times in cinema, everything about The Reader was refreshing. The director, Stephen Daldry, appeared to let the actors take risks and create something new and inspiring. The scenes played out effortlessly, almost without the words or dare I say against the words. This film makes you feel so many complex emotions all at once. The Reader is a rare piece of art that helps you find compassion for the things we were taught to hate without question.
There have been (and we’re about to have even more) films that talk about WWII and the horrific things that happened, but this is the FIRST film that I have seen to tackle the issue from this perspective. It’s as if WWII is in the backdrop of the film, it’s a part of people’s lives but it’s not what they are. You find yourself actually feeling sympathy for the people that we so easily classify as villains and monsters, and yet also finding it for the families and the survivors of the same brutes you pity.
No person is completely innocent or completely guilty, and that goes for both sides of WWII. Yes the jews were out-numbered, yes the things that happened to them were horrific, but there is another side to things and to make sure that something like this never happens again (even thought it is), people have to open their hearts and minds to the side of things that they have been taught to hate without question. Hitler didn’t gain power because he was viewed as a tyrant. He knew how to use people’s strengths against them. He was powerful, charismatic, and he offered people things when they needed them.
Kate Winslet gives one of the best performances of her life. She’s stoic and strong, yet endures unimaginable pain. Her pride is relentless and her pain and joy is palpable. She represents what many of us were taught to hate and yet we can find compassion and love in her. She shows us how moments of hate don’t come out of a need to destroy, but of a need to protect, to be responsible, and to survive.
Kodus to the David Kross who plays Winslet’s young lover. For a young actor that I’d never heard of before, he had an extremely hefty role to tackle. From nude scenes to deep inner torment, he managed to take on all ranges of human emotions and appear at home in front of the camera.
It’s nice to see Ralph Fiennes play something other than a villain. I’m so used to him playing the bad guy (which he is so good at) that it was nice to see him weak, vulnerable, and caring. Then there was Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes together. The two of them bring scenes to life in ways that you never thought imaginable. The moment that should have brought them the greatest joy brought the greatest sadness and vice versa. Nothing played the way it “should” but played completely naturally. Watching them is like watching two people in a dance.
As you can tell I highly recommend this film. It’s a film that will stay with you for a long time after you’ve seen it.
It will be in select theaters staring December 12, 2008.
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