Tells the story of Michael Berg, a German lawyer who as a teenager in the late 1950s had an affair with an older woman, Hanna, who then disappeared only to resurface years later as one of the defendants in a war crimes trial stemming from her actions as a concentration camp guard late in the war. He alone realizes that Hanna is illiterate and may be concealing that at the expense of her freedom.
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What a mind full! As the phrase is aptly clipped in the movie: Ã¢â‚¬Å“German guiltÃ¢â‚¬Â it is not all about that. It is not about historical events, people, relationships, the human condition as much as it is about how vulnerable a young sole is and how profoundly an experience at a young age, especially if the individual is not emotionally mature enough for the experience, impacts one, and often dominate the rest of oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life and its future outcome. It is obvious why Kate Winslet deserves the Oscar for the best actress in this roll, she was outstanding, no doubt about that.
I ended 2008 on a good note with Frost/Nixon, and I believe I have started 2009 even better. The Reader is a unique film that has a great story and great acting. The film is about a 15 year-old boy named Michael and his love affair with a woman twice his age. However, their affair only lasts a summer, but stays with Michael forever. After Hanna disappears one day, Michael is left with a broken heart, and I do not think it ever heals. He will never have a relationship like the one he had with Hanna again. As Michael finds out more about Hanna and her past, he still cares for her. She has made a lasting impression on him for the rest of his life.
Kate Winslet plays Hanna, who has more than one secret. However, one secret may be worse than murder. Slowly as the story unfolds we find out who Hanna is. However, there is another part of herself that she is very ashamed of. It is amazing what she is willing to do to hide it. She has a history of having people read to her, and she trades sex for stories being read to her by Michael. And soon it is reading and then sex. However, the relationship becomes more than that. As the film winds down, you realize how important Hanna and MichaelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s relationship was and how they really helped each other.
Stephen Daldry directed The Hours, and he has advanced since then. He told a great story post WWII that has so much to offer about people and their struggles. But this film would not have been so good if it was not for Kate Winslet. David Kross plays young Michael and he does a great job. You have to be good if most of your scenes are going to be with Winslet. And Ralph Fiennes plays the older Michael and portrays a man with a broken heart very well. He is sincere and cares, but it almost seems hidden. He has become very fragile and emotionless over the years. This goes back to the day Hanna left him when he was in his youth.
And now I have to get back to Winslet. She has becomes one of the best actresses working today, perhaps even the best actress of today. She can play glamorous women or plain Jane. She has this ability to make you believe in every character she plays. She shows it in this film as well. The things her character has had to live with and she has regrets. And can you see it in WinsletÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face. She did a fantastic job and she deserves to finally win an Oscar. And IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m looking forward to seeing what she does in Revolutionary Road as well. But I can assure you that I will remember this film at the end of the year. The well-crafted story and the great performances that tell it.
The Reader (18A) * * * *
By ROBERT WALDMAN
2008 has seen a spate of movies on the Holocaust. Whether solemn or heroic the World War 2 experience still holds quite an impact. Sure to gain lots of attention come Oscar time next spring is The Reader, a masterful tale of passion and secrecy from Alliance Films now setting off all sorts of emotions at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas.
Meticulous director Stephen Daldry (The Hours) takes us on an unnerving journey from present to past and back as we explore the life of one Michael Berg. First we meet Michael as a grown man. However, what went on in this GermanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s past gives The Reader its very essence.
Being an adolescent at any time can be a trying experience. Life in Germany during the war years had most people on edge but its toll on the youth of the day is a whole other matter. Quite by accident a still youthful Michael meets a German woman named Hanna Schmitz. Much older in years Hanna comes across as the ultimate good Samaritan, literally picking the poor boy up off the street. What follows from that innocent first meeting proves to be quite the testament as in no short order Michael becomes fascinated by Hanna and vice versa.
Like all red-blooded boys Michael faces struggles at home, especially with those hormones raging in a host of different directions. Thanks to Hanna the boy is introduced to the delights of the flesh and in return this smart young lad helps his elderly paramour learn a bit about literature.
Years later, when news of HannaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s past surfaces it throws the relationship for a curve with the result that Michael becomes conflicted. So now this successful professional must come to terms with his own past and just who was Hanna Schmitz in an emotional story that looks at the role of regular citizens of German descent and their part in HitlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s final solution.
Though both Ralph Fiennes (SchindlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s List) and Kate Winslet (Titanic) share top billing The Reader really belongs to David Kross who absolutely sizzles as the young Michael, a boy whose initiation into manhood will resonate well with both males and females.
Issues of literacy, adolescence and the collective guilt of a society are all handled flawlessly in this 125 minute odyssey that boasts confidant, compassionate performances. Stark visuals of the death camps and an affair soon not forgotten make The Reader quality entertainment of the highest caliber. Also worth noting is the wonderful make-up job done on Kate Winslet whose aging here will leave you quite impressed.
Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com.