Monday, March 21, 2011

Movie Monday #2: The Reader, Bernard Schlink

Schlink presents a wonderful analogy to the German World War II experience via a young man's coming to terms with who and what his first love is, as a lover, and as a woman on trial for having been a member of a Nazi guard. The emotionlessness of Berg when he is confronted with the woman whom he was involved in, parallels the stoic narrative of the Third Reich as it was told in the decades directly following the war. Indeed, until recently history there has only been a rather delicate acknowledgment of the extent of misdeeds during this era.
Berg's polarities in loving Hanna, and guilt in loving a woman responsible for so many deaths, mirrors the struggle between German patriotism and an equally powerful national guilt. An interesting read, and a refreshing analysis of the post-war interpretation of war crimes. I've always been fascinated in how societies discuss their involvement or reactions to atrocities; there's a lot of interesting discussion regarding Nazism vs German patriotism, akin to that of Japanese patriotism after the bombs. Hanna's shocking illiteracy evokes the claims of so many German citizens about the Holocaust: their ignorance. It's a brilliant commentary. I suggest this novel as a testament to the complexities of post-war constructions of nationalism.

The movie... phew. What a great drama! I thought I was biased because of my unwavering love of Kate Winslet!

Some scenes were added, yes. It made it more of a growing up story this way. It showed the confusion and disillusionment that a German youth of the '50s and '60s were liable to have; a struggle with how to articulate and move forward from the atrocities committed. The film is less of a commentary and more of an account. The suspense is keener. To be honest, the changes they made for the movie make it stand stronger on it's own. Both mediums succeed in conveying a very powerful message.

The acting is spectacular; poor David Kross got shafted. Ralph Fiennes is only marginally a player in the film. He's a fantastic young talent. Obviously Ms. Winslet won the Oscar; she's so emotive in this role. The scenes in the court room during Hanna's testimony were incredibly well acted.

It's a great movie! I love it when a wonderful book can be turned into a movie that stands strong on it's own account.

The Reader, Bernard Schlink
ISBN: 037540826

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