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This 2013 film was based on the 2005 novel of the same name by Markus Zusak. Liesel is a young girl who is taken in by a foster family in Germany. Her adoptive father teaches her to read, and when the family hides a fleeing Jew named Max, Liesel takes to borrowing/stealing books that she reads to help keep his hopes and spirit alive.

There are some particularly fine performances from the actors who play Liesel (Sophie Nelisse) and her adoptive father (Geoffrey Rush), and their characterization is very good. I also appreciated how the film shows the effect of the war on ordinary German civilians, some of whom were caught up in the patriotism, but others who selflessly worked against the regime to protect life. This offers a fresh perspective on a subject (World War 2) which often sees the same ground covered in films, but fortunately that is not the case here. The film is rated PG-13, but mostly due to the violence that forms the background to the story and is more implied than shown; there's no real blood or gore. Without needing to resorting to graphic violence, the film shows the very real effect of war on lives like Liesel's. It also has a very positive message about self-sacrifice and love for the neighbour.

While there are many good aspects to the film, it still felt mediocre and disappointing. The personification of Death as narrator was jarring and confusing, and his message about the perplexity of human life was unclear; it's an empty message that offers no real hope, despite attempting to tug at heart-strings. Also unclear was the concept of how words have the power of life, and the title "Book Thief" only played a minor role in the film. From what I have learned subsequently, the book that the plot is based on emphasizes this much more strongly, and many people who have come from the book and watched the film found it a very unsatisfying adaptation. There's also several instances of blasphemy that are more typical of a modern audience rather than pre-war Germany.

Overall, perhaps this is a case of: Read the book, don't watch the movie. - GODLY GADFLY (April 2017)
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on April 14, 2014
People often wonder how people-of-conscience in Germany could have allowed the Nazis to gather so much power and perpetrate the atrocities of the Holocaust. After World War II, many decried all Germans without differentiation. This touching drama, offers insight. Excellent acting and writing bring alive average people living under and reacting to a fascist regime. (Spoiler alert) We see Germany through the eyes of a young girl, Liesl, and the couple who takes her in to get extra rations when her mother, running from the roundups of Communists, can no longer care for her. When a young Jewish man, Max, runs to them for help, the husband takes him in, bound by honor to a promise to Max's father. Subsisting in the basement over next couple of years, Max sees the spark of intelligence and curiosity in Liesl who thirsts for words. He encourages her to read and to write; she inspires him to live when he becomes deathly ill.

The characters feel real and balanced, making tiny rebellions and survival-based compromises to live in frightening times. There is no villain, other than the disembodied Hitler, just people reacting for good or ill to a militarized society. Although the story is filled with tragedy from the very beginning, this is not a story about the horrors of the camps. It is about the effect of loss and oppression on everyday people. More importantly, it is about how the human spirit can miraculously survive overwhelming odds. It is a book about curiosity and creativity and how words can transform a prison and capture the emotions and colors of life. It about the spark of goodness that can be found in unexpected places.

I recommend this highly, despite the fact that I do not like tragedies.

For those concerned about such things, there is no gore or sex. There is minimal swearing, which might not even be considered to be by some. There is death, war, and implied inhumanity to man, which are so much more offensive to me.
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on May 19, 2016
I have never both read the book and watched the film versions of any novel. My reason is that if I read the book and didn't like it, there's no point watching the film and if I really liked the book but the film turns out to be bad, then I just ruined the good experience I had reading the book. And this goes vice versa if I would watch the film first. Yet somehow I got inclined to watch this film right after I finished the book. I now realize that films are only adaptations where some characters and certain parts of the story are modified (obviously because they cannot possibly fit the whole story in a two or two and a half hour film). I would, however, recommended reading the book version of any novel first before watching its film. Your own imagination can play a lot more while you read without being influenced by what you would have seen in the movie had you watched the film first.

Since I had read the full story in the book first before watching the shortened version in film, I felt the movie could get confusing because of certain details that were left out. Also, the film did not depict the depth of Liesel’s relationships with Rudy, with Max Vandenburg, with Hans Hubermann, with Rosa Hubermann, and with Ilsa Hermann —all of which were central to the story. In addition, the film did not depict the increasing boldness in the thieving either, which was not only central to the story but to the way it had shaped Liesel’s character.
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on December 13, 2016
Though this movie creates some heartbreak, it is a beautiful movie, based on the wonderful book. The cast was perfectly chosen and they were all amazing. Sometimes I feel like people might think I am morbid because I think movie with outcomes such as this can be beautiful, but I really am not morbid. The story is beautiful, the things that can be learned are beautiful, and the writing is more than beautiful. I am picky about the writing of these kinds of stories, but I was very impressed and pleased and they created this movie with the feelings you get from the vivid imagery in the book. I have never cried more in a book/movie than I do in this, and I cry hard every single time, but it is still, by far, my favorite.
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on March 15, 2017
I'm one of those folks who read the book first (bought it in paperback and would have given it a 5). Needed to see what the screen did with it. Acting of the principals, sets, cinematography, and direction were superb. However, for a reader of the book, there wasn't enough of the book stealing in the film, and the grim reaper's overlay narrative was more of an unpleasant diversion than called for.
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on April 19, 2014
One of the most acclaimed (and rightly so) books of the last decade, a book that has found its place in the pantheon of classic literature, has been made into a good movie, even given the inevitable changes of storyline in some places. The tenderness and gentleness of the foster father, the shrillness and yet ultimately, careful love of the foster mother, Max, the man in the cellar, and the young boy -- the true friend, all are here for our young female protagonist.

The cast, well chosen, the work beautifully done. The insight into life in Germany during the rise of the second World War, and the common people who were caught up in it, yet some who still tried to maintain their humanity and care for the suddenly ostracized and ease the daily lives of their neighbors are well portrayed. This is a story and a film that cause us to question the mind of Man and to examine the misguided decisions of people who are in positions to affect the lives of their fellows -- and of those whose small gifts to their fellows are the stuff of glory.
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on June 15, 2014
The lessons of the Third Reich and the Holocaust cannot be overstated. Almost seventy years since the end of World War II witnesses to the atrocities of the Germans are dwindling to a few. The makers of "The Book Thief" have an interesting take on what occurred at that time. Seen through the eyes of a young girl, Liesel (Sophie Nelisse), the film begins prior to the invasion of Poland and ends when hostilities between the superpowers ends. Liesel begins the film as a fragile and frightened illiterate young girl taken from a mother with Communist sympathies to a young woman wizened to the horrors humanity is capable of but assured of her own moral compass. The setting of the film is the picaresque village Liesel goes to live with her adoptive parents, Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson), and it serves as a microcosm of the cancer that infected the Fatherland. Liesel sees with eyes agape everything from a book burning to commemorate Der Fuhrer's birthday to Jews being marched though her town to their ultimate fate in the concentration camps. Nelisse giving a sterling performance anchors the film quite nicely. The supporting cast is uniformly excellent with a special shout out to young Nico Liersch who plays Liesel's friend, Rudy, a boy who emulates the African-American track star Jesse Owens. The beauty of the film is it works on an adult level but should be accessible to older adolescents and teenagers. This film serves as a primer to a time in our history we cannot and should not forget.
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on March 18, 2017
The Book Thief is one of my favorite books of all time so I had high hopes but low expectations for the film. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoy it as much as I do. Good acting, and the changes fron the book weren't all together unacceptable. I'll always love the book more but this didn't disappoint.
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on March 2, 2015
I liked this movie quite a lot. Movies can rarely, if ever, 'get' the whole book; and while this movie is no exception, it does a pretty good job of picking which to leave in. WWII movies are usually a mix of devastating and uplifting. This is no exception, although the movie is quite a bit less devastating than the book---- it is pretty uplifting, ultimately. Some reviewers found 'death's narration annoying. I didn't. style choice, I imagine.
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on May 18, 2014
The Book Thief
“One small fact: you are going to die. Despite every effort, no one lives forever. Sorry to be such a spoiler. My advice is when the time comes, don't panic. It doesn't seem to help.” Wisdom according to Death.

Film can be many things. It can document an event, it can imagine a far away world, it can tell a story with an alternate ending, it can be a visual symphony and in the case of “The Book Thief” it can be allegorical poetry. And with a John Williams score it can be sublime allegorical poetry.

In every sense of the word Brian Percival directs this production not as a WW2 period piece although the period of Hitler’s Germany is everywhere. We are used to such pieces being told from the point of view of victim, heroes, escapees or the Allied liberation. We are not used to sympathizing with Nazis and here we are forced to. But we are never often offered the point of view of Death as a character but if Death is a protagonist this is the film he was meant to star in. Inded, Percival gives us Death as both narrator and subject of this ode to life.

Meet Liesl. Her new adoptive parents Hans and Rosa. Hans has a musical soul and Rosa is cloaked in thunder. We meet Rudy and Franz, classmates of Liesl in her new school. Rudy would have been her prom date in several years but Franz was just a schoolyard bully. And we meet Ilsa, wife of the Burgermeister and caretaker of her dead son’s library where books can be conviently stolen by Liesl, our book stealer. And then there’s Max. The sun of a Jew who saved Hans’ life in WW1 by sacrificing his own. They are hiding Max in their basement. Max nearly dies but lives and leaves sacrificing his own safety so Liesl and her new family can live.

And because every symphonic allegorical poem, even of the sublime type, needs a climax Death does not hold back even as Death nonchalantly describes their last evening together:
“No one intended to destroy a street named after Heaven that evening. It was a misread on a map. No sirens that evening. First were Rudy’s brothers. I wrapped their simple dreams. Then I kissed his mother. And stole the meanness from Franz Deutcher’s heart. Rosa I caught mid snore……and I felt her regrets for not sharing more of her very big heart. As for Hans his soul was lighter than a child’s …..and I heard his final thought…..Liesl.”

Death continues, “Rudy- his soul just rolled into my arms.”
As the rescue effort is underway we learn that Liesl lives and so does Max. And again Death speaks: “Humans. I see their ugliness and their beauty and I wonder how the same can be both. All I know is that I’m haunted by humans.”

This film has entirely satisfying ending and is hauntingly beautiful.
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