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The Reader 2008

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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Imdb rating: 7.6

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For me this movie is not easy to judge...It was interesting enough to watch it to the end...Was slow movie a lot of the times...Hmmm...I will give it a soft 5.7/10
Kate Winslet gives one of the most exquisite performances she has ever had. And the whole film reminds me of the peter weir masterpiece " Picnic at Hanging Rock", Especially the atmosphere! It is superb!
"The Reader," starring the incomparable Kate Winslet and a talented young newcomer named David Kross, starts off magnificently, but in the second half it gets plodding, flat, and pedantic. In the last 15 minutes, I was impatient to leave the theater.

What happened? How could a movie go from great to artless? My suspicion is that director Stephen Daldry (whose 2002 film "The Hours" is likely to go down in history as the first truly great film of the 21st century) was rushed by executive producer Harvey Weinstein. I had read about a feud between them, with Daldry asking for more time to edit the film due to the fact that he was swamped in getting the stage musical "Billy Elliott" ready for its Broadway opening. (Daldry is so eclectic that he even does stage musicals!) Weinstein reportedly insisted on a December opening, presumably to position the film better for awards.

If this is true, then Weinstein won the battle and lost the war. The film has been released, but I can't imagine it will generate significant Oscar buzz, even given the fact that it was just nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Drama. I think the Globes will be the only group honoring this film in its current form.

Perhaps Daldry someday will get to release a director's cut, which will no doubt be a great improvement. Daldry is a consummate artist. I can't imagine the anguish he must feel with a film he put his blood, sweat, and tears into getting released in a half-finished state. But Daldry and his editor can at least feel proud of the first half of the film, which is truly a sterling achievement.

Once again my maxim about editing is proven true. The editing of a film is as important as its direction. A director is only half-done when shooting completes. You can shoot great footage. But if you are rushed or misguided in the editing, the film falls apart. Or rather, it fails to come together.

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Winslet plays a woman of about 35 who develops a surprisingly loving and highly erotic relationship with a teenage boy in her town in West Germany. The time is about 1958. The cinematography is exquisite as they begin to explore each other's bodies. Watching the boy start to build sexual self-confidence was beautiful. Both Winslet and the young actor David Kross pushed their bodies to the limit to convey on-screen passion. For Winslet it must have been challenging given that she has such a big name, and for Kross given that he is so young. He is a brave young man to do full-frontal scenes, carrying them off with seeming ease. He is a natural in front of the camera, even when naked. The cinematography is highly erotic but never gratuitously so. No one could describe it as pornographic.

It is quite daring, however, given the fact that the male character is only 15, a point that is made several times. Daldry chose not to gloss over this. He wanted the audience to be very aware of the age issue, which is interesting. Complicating matters further is the age of the actor himself. I presumed he must have been at least 18 during the filming. But according to the Internet Movie Database, Kross turned 18 just about six months ago -- so he was a minor during the filming. I believe the shooting took place in Europe. If it had taken place in the United States, especially in the Bible Belt, I imagine the director might have found himself behind bars. I'm surprised that there's been no scandal as of yet. Perhaps there will be soon. These are some dramatic and risky choices on the part of Daldry and the producers. I must say, these choices do give me pause.

It must have been an enormously difficult decision on the part of Kross and his parents to agree to all the nudity and sex scenes. Overall I support them in their decision. The film is 100% artistic in nature. But I can see arguments on the other side. Winslet also took a lot of risks in agreeing to do so many sex scenes with a minor.

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When not making love, this couple is reading; that is, the boy reads to the woman -- hence the film's title. The scenes depicting the reading sessions are sublime and deeply tender.

Their relationship hits some surprising depths but does not last long. After what appears to be only one summer, the relationship ends when the woman suddenly leaves town, never saying goodbye to the boy. Oddly, the move occurs just after she is promoted at work. Later in the film this coincidence is explained, but I won't give away the details.

About 10 years later while in law school, he sees the woman again. One day while his class is watching a trial, he is stunned to realize that the defendant is this woman from his teenage summer of love. What is she on trial for? Being a Nazi war criminal. About 15 years before she met the boy, she was a guard at Auschwitz. This is when the film dramatically shifts in tone and look. It is so extreme that it feels like someone other than Daldry directed the second half of the film. The aforementioned issues with rushed editing don't completely explain it. The cinematography is also drastically different.

-unfinished-
A great performance by David Kross as young Michael. Kross successfully captures the subtle dramatic shifts of the German novel (by Bernhard Schlink) and holds his own next to the impressive Fiennes and Winslet. Also, Nico Muhly's score is fantastic and really contributes to the film.
A pretty good movie, with a powerful performance by Kate Winslett. Too bad the last part fumbled the emotional buildup from the rest of the film. Otherwise it would have been a much more profound and impactful movie.
Content warning - reveals many plot details - read only after seeing the movie. The movie is chilling when you view Kate Winslet's character as the emotionally blunted and manipulative character that she is. In many ways she ruins the life of Michael. To view the first half as sexy, is to miss the point of her cold exploitation. The second half is the natural culmination of her disjointed yet cruel actions (to send to death the very weak characters she befriends, after she gets them to read to her). She falsely confesses, more out of misunderstanding what is occurring in the proceedings, than in any attempt to "take the fall". Her offer of giving money to the victim (or her daughter) only happens after Michael is cold to her for not learning anything from her incarceration. As my daughter said, she has the emotional maturity of an 8 year old. (Or to use a new - often over-used psychological diagnosis - she seems to have Asperger's syndrome - a mild type of autism that reflects a "lack of emotional and social reciprocity"). The point is not to bash the Hanna character, but rather to view her in the depth needed to appreciate the movie - an insightful and disturbing view of several characters in post Holocaust Germany. The movie looks at the intersection between their personal lives and one character's war atrcoities, of which the motivation for her actions remains murky. Profound and well conceived.
THE READER



We find ourselves trapped in what the Chinese would term 'interesting times'. A new political machine is about to lead the country while the old administration prepares for a graceful exit. During this time of transition, we are still engaged in a war with Middle Eastern Muslims. It is a time of uncertainty, yet Hollywood seems obsessed, not with transitional governments, not with Muslim terrorists, not with augmenting Russian and Chinese territoriality, but rather with Nazi Germany. More movies have been released in this awards season with the Nazi theme than any other political or global concerns. I am a bit perplexed, when, as George Clooney is so quick to tell us, Hollywood is on the bleeding edge of confronting key issues, why this hammering of the Nazis? Is Germany really growing into a world power with a maniacal ruling once again? Doubtful.



Nearly a decade ago, I had the opportunity to interview a Holocaust survivor. Her biggest fear was that people would forget, or become indifferent to what happened. If that occurred, she felt certain history could repeat itself, and that needed to be stopped at any cost. In my review of "Valkyrie", I stated just these elements; how many of today's youths have lost the historical context of WWII, the purpose, the cause for the fighting, the horrors committed by people with smiles on their faces. I explained how the movie had to be altered to reinforce its message. And, therein lies the answer to the deluge of Nazi Germany films. Producers have seen the eroding, through the socialist agenda, of the Holocaust impact. They have witnessed indifference in the next generation and feel obliged to keep the event alive, so that history does not repeat. To that extent, David Hare has written a powerful drama in THE READER.



The film tells the tale of Michael Berg, a young man who is 'coming of age' when he encounters a woman who helps him. Through his life, the woman continuously reemerges impacting his career, his family and his politics. Berg is played by David Kross in his younger years and by Ralph Fiennes in his adult years. Kross is adequate, though not overwhelming. Fiennes seems to enjoy taking offbeat roles of men in internal conflict. He's become quite good at the characterization. He has little more than an extended cameo as Kross carries the bulk of the role, but the scenes he is in are quite palatable. Kate Winslet is Hanna Schmitz, the woman who affects Berg's life. Winslet gives a strong performance and unlike the Berg character, is able to play Hanna throughout the film with the aide of prosthetics and make-up created by Ivana Primorac and Pauline Fowler. Winslet, too, revels in these quirky roles primarily composed of composite characters. She also enjoys nude scenes because she has the physical attributes to make them effective and there are enough of them in the film's opening reels to capture the male audience, who are quickly disinterested if nothing is blowing up, to establish plot and structure.



KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1. THE COAL SCENE

2. THE COURTROOM SCENE

3. THE PRISON CAF... SCENE



THE READER is an engrossing tale, maneuvered well by Director Stephen Daldry. The movie is a trifle long. Editor Claire Simpson could have easily trimmed twenty minutes or so and still kept the emotional impact. The ending is somewhat stilted, and perhaps should have been concluded before the daughter's rendezvous. What could possibly be more horrific than the genocide of the Holocaust? Hare is able to keep the event alive by presenting illiteracy as the answer, for indeed, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.



THE RATING FOR THE READER = B

BFCA RATING = 8/10



I saw the trailer for this film and was blown away. It looked amazing, and had potential to be my favorite movie of the year.

It is a movie that I would encourage anyone to see.

The movie as a whole was well acted and directed. It has been nominated for many awards in the US as well as in England.

The love scenes are intense and well acted. Kate Winslet was right on par with her past performances. I was also impressed with the actor that played the young Michael Burg (David Kross, also nominated for an award).

The ending leaves you with a twisted sense of emotion. I loved that I didn't know weather to cry or smile. It took a few days of pondering to really figure out how I feel about this movie.
And the outcome is... I thought that it was unexpectedly amazing.


THE READER
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Stars Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross, Lena Olin, Bruno Ganz
R - some scenes of sexuality and nudity

Haunting tale of a teenage boy who has an affair with a much older woman one summer, only re-encounter her years later as a law student, when she is on trial for Nazi war crimes. Beautifully filmed and powerfully acted, "The Reader" is a tragically passionate tale of love, obsession, and the power of literature.
While a less than perfect film, the well developed narrative, restrained performances and fine cinematography make this a highly watchable and provocative film. Issues of moral development, compassion and justice provoke the viewer in a manner that very few films grapple with that address the Holocaust. What do we have to say about those who are not proactively evil, but are clearly amoral simpletons who can not grasp the enormity of their actions until it is too late. How many of us have gone on with our daily lives, immune to our own small contributions to Abu Garib, Guantanamo, Darfur, etc. If we are not ignorant, how do we fail to act?

The idea that critics would give this film the same rating as that piece of maudlin pap "Marley and Me", is mind-boggling.
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