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Years later, the two cross paths again, and Michael (played as an adult by Ralph Fiennes) learns, slowly, horrifyingly, of acts that Hanna may have been involved in during the war. There is a war crimes trial, and the accused at one point asks the panel of prosecutors: "Well, what would you have done?" It is that question--as one German professor says later: "How can the next generation of Germans come to terms with the Holocaust?"--that is both heartbreaking and unanswerable. Winslet plays every shade of gray in her portrayal of Hanna, and Fiennes is riveting as the man who must rewrite history--his own and his country's--as he learns daily, hourly, of deeds that defy categorization, and morality. "No matter how much washing and scrubbing," one character says matter of factly, "some sins don't wash away." The Reader (with nods to similar films like Sophie's Choice and The English Patient dares to present that unnerving premise, without offering an easy solution. --A.T. Hurley
Stills from The Reader (Click for larger image)
Adapting A Timeless Masterpiece: Making The Reader
A Conversation With David Kross & Stephen Daldry
Kate Winslet On The Art of Aging Hanna Schmitz
A New Voice: A Look At Composer Nico Muhly
Coming To Grips With The Past: Pro
Top Customer Reviews
To clarify, the narrative timeline is important and the questions the story raises are still relevant. The male lead, Michael meets Winslet's character Hannah first in 1958, AFTER the war. Whatever she did in the war is part of her past when they have their affair. He would have been a small child in the war, he is fifteen when they meet, and in his early 20s in law school. Her sudden disappearances and many of her choices are dictated by a personal secret that has dire consequences later, when Michael, now a law student, sees her again in a courtroom.
The viewer must understand that post war Germany felt, and still feels shame over the Holocaust and faced serious challenges when it was over and the nation had to answer for crimes against humanity. It's difficult to say what any of us would do in the same circumstances. We were not there. Would a person be swept along? Would they rationalize? Would they act in fear? In habitual obedience? What role does ignorance play? Can someone who is capable of great kindness, even tenderness, also be capable of evil, of knowing unthinking cruelty? Does one act nullify the other? What is the punishment when a whole nation is held in thrall? It's all easy to answer from a point of safety and security.Read more ›
BEWARE OF SPOILERS.
There is a certain segment of the German mentality that is Hanna Schmidt. English Kate Winslet captures the intent of novelist Bernhard Schlink in her interpretation of the character. Hanna was an ordinary but proud woman of discipline who always did her duty, a woman without the ability to separate herself from what she knew was right and what was wrong, but a woman who was able to hide from herself what she did that was wrong.
She seduces fifteen-year-old Michael Berg. She finds him doubly useful as a reader of great literature. She knows it will not work. Of course how could it? She indulges herself but, being strong and proud, is able to divorce herself from him emotionally when the time comes, as it must. When he reads D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover to her, she is genuinely offended at the open sexuality, but we viewers are taken back since what she is doing with 15-year-old Michael Berg is on the screen and naked before our eyes.
In a sense this is the somewhat familiar story of the young man of station and potential had briefly in his youth by the older woman who has neither station nor potential. They take advantage of one another for the time being, both knowing that they will move on. But young Michael is not fully aware of this old story because his station in life is, although above hers, still rather modest, and being fifteen and knowing a woman for the first time, he is in love as much as--or even more than--a fifteen-year-old can be.Read more ›
Sure, you can be quick to pinpoint it's supposed faults, and you can try and label it something that it is not, but if you allow your eyes to open and your mind to absorb you may be able to see this for what it really is; a masterpiece.
When sitting down to write this review I asked my friend how I was going to be able to do so without being redundant or irritating. I mean, how many different ways can you say masterpiece before someone says "I get the point, now move on"? I'm going to try and get all that out of the way right now so that my review will be palatable.
`The Reader' is a masterpiece.
Okay, I'm done now.
Having read Bernhard Schlink's beautiful novel I was really anticipating this film. I feel that Kate Winslet is the finest working actress today and this just seemed like such an ideal role for her (Oscar, if you pass her over this year I vow to never watch another telecast).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very good movie, really captures atmosphere of post-war Germany, and its efforts to address Nazi period. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Book lover17
Other than the nudity of a young boy, I found the story profound. The impact of war crimes and how ridiculous the circus of the German judicial system. Read morePublished 1 day ago by lt
This was a really good movie. Not one that I would watch over and over, but interesting and well-acted.Published 4 days ago by Careful Shopper
Excellent story, excellent acting...and a good deal of history in it as well. Does need the R rating for some nudity and sex.Published 5 days ago by Warren Frommelt
Great acting and great story. Makes you think about right and wrong and respecting the wishes of other lives you come in contact with.Published 6 days ago by Don Moody