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Customer Review

200 of 212 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I am haunted by humans", November 28, 2013
This review is from: The Book Thief (DVD)
Those who love Markus Zusak's The Book Thief as I do will know that it is an incredibly complex novel - the way the main characters intersect each other's lives and the themes that are developed throughout the novel are deep and layered and would make for a daunting on-screen translation. Yet director Brian Percival manages to make the movie accessible to viewers whilst staying true to the source material. This may not be a blow-by-blow, faithful to each and every word adaptation, but to me at least, it is a true adaptation in portraying the essence of the story. I love the book but I also loved the movie, for similar and different reasons.

The story of The Book Thief begins with the narrator, Death (Roger Allam), providing a sort of overview/introduction. Fortunately, the narrator's voice is not dominant throughout the story as it would (to me) have been a rather distracting voice, but the narrator's presence is felt nevertheless. The protagonist in this film is Liesel (Sophie Nelisse in a ground-breaking performance), a young teenager who comes to live with her foster parents, Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush) and his wife, the acid- tongued Rosa (Emily Watson). The setting at the beginning of the story is Germany in 1938 and the story goes on till the end of WW II. Liesel's mother is a Communist and has been packed off somewhere, presumably a camp, for this is after all Nazi Germany.

The story focuses on Liesel's relationship with her foster parents, her best friend, Rudy (Nico Liersch), and her life-defining friendship with Max (Ben Schnetzer), the young Jewish man hiding in her parents' basement. At the beginning of the story Liesl is unable to read but this slowly changes as first her foster father Hans and later Max help her see beyond the words to the very notions underlying those words. Soon Liesel is reading voraciously and also developing a keen sense of what it means to live in such troubled times, and who by the end of the story, has come to truly understand the power of words and what defines moral courage.

The themes in the book are manifold and I felt these themes were beautifully portrayed in the film. The ideas of friendship, paternal and maternal love, loyalty, and courage, not to mention of course, Death, are credibly-woven together in such a way that these themes flow throughout the film as a whole instead of distinct parts. The cast, especially Nelisse as Liesel, delivers a finely-nuanced performance, every emotion captured by those beautiful, wide, expressive eyes, and Rush as her foster father Hans portrays the very symbol of paternal love and moral courage (especially in the scene where he stands up to a Gestapo officer in defense of a friend).

The film is rated PG-13, but I watched this with my husband and 9-year-old (who has read The Diary of Anne Frank and is somewhat familiar with the history of the Holocaust), and she was absolutely captivated by this film. There are no scenes of extreme or prolonged violence - some scenes of kids fighting, Nazis dragging people off, Nazis burning books, children chanting pro-Nazi slogans (which is disturbing to me but of course given the context of the film, it cannot be helped), Nazis and collaborators destroying Jewish property during Kristallnacht, but nothing like the scenes one sees in movies like Schindler's List. It made for an interesting family discussion after we finished viewing it.

The film's ultimate message is positive and there are certainly many interesting issues that come up for discussion - moral courage being one that I felt was significant. Do we stand by and watch atrocities and injustice perpetrated without voicing against it, and if we do, are we prepared for the repercussions? These and more are satisfactorily addressed in this film, and I count this as one of the more memorable films of 2013.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 12, 2014, 6:20:49 AM PDT
Shirley Ann says:
I want to thank you ever so much for explaining that even with the film's rating of PG-13 you were able to view the film with your 9 year old. Too many films give an appropriate rating but once the film is viewed we see the rating should have been more strict. Your review has been most helpful to me in making a decision to buy the dvd. Again, thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 17, 2014, 12:21:54 PM PDT
P. G. Croft says:
It may be too late by now, for you to discover otherwise, but my Neice--who HAS seen the film by DVD, was annoyed with the rating, for being TOO low. Her 12 year old daughter was frightened by the sudden violence, and heavy dramatic scenes. Her 16yr old was fine with it. I know ratings are only guidance, but it is better to err on the cautious. Perhaps parents should view first then decide. P G Croft UK.

Posted on Oct 16, 2016, 3:33:43 PM PDT
Thanks for the review, but-come on!-don't put the last line of the book in the header! Ever heard of a spoiler alert? :)
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Review Details

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Reviewer

Z Hayes
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   

Location: TX, USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 103