What I enjoyed most about the film was how death is introduced as a character. It's the voice of death which is used throughout the film to narrate much of what has happened in the past.
It's death who introduces Liesel, Sophie Nelisse, in the opening scenes and death who fills in her life story in the closing scenes. He's in and out throughout the film gently taking souls while passing on his own unique and inspiring message about all he has learnt about us, the human family. Very philosophical and really quite beautiful. His speech in the closing scenes was so uplifting I was almost moved to tears.
The story concentrates on the war in Germany and focuses upon the growth of the Nazi's and the impact that has on a small town in which Liesel is taken to live with 'adopted' parents. Liesel can't read much at first but develops a passion for books. A passion that will remain throughout her life and one that's encouraged by her new 'papa' and the Jewish boy, Max, hiding from the Nazi's in their cellar.
Some of the darker events of the times are shown but the film doesn't concentrate only on the fate of the Jews. It goes to great length to highlight the absolute racism and discrimination of the Nazi's even against their own people. There are a couple of great scenes set around Jessie Owens, American track and field Olympic gold medalist, which I thought were particularly well done. What 'The Book Thief' is asking you to consider is the effect an extraordinary war had upon ordinary people and how it impacted upon love, friendship and family.
We bought the DVD last week and I've watched it twice. It really is a good movie and such a clever blend of dark/light, sad/happy. I'm more than happy to recommend.
The Book Thief is on one DVD and runs for approx. 131 minutes. The film has a '12' classification and I wouldn't recommend it for children much younger as there are some strong themes and some violence.
on 5 March 2014
Having read reviews of this film suggesting its viewing should be accompanied by a box of Kleenex, I promised myself from the outset that I would simply not cry over this one. (I have a reputation for being somewhat emotional, even when just watching TV adverts.) However, my resolve went out of the window as, after having now seen said film at my local cinema last night, I came away desperately dabbing at my eyes in the hope that my economy mascara had not smudged too badly. For it is indeed an emotional film. It is also quite an unusual one in that it mixes the abstract with intense drama. I have not read the book (though I fully intend to now) but understand that it has a much more ethereal quality about it. Thus, it would have been difficult to reproduce that on the screen, other than in limited amounts. Therefore the film starts, and is infrequently returned to, narration by a storyteller who is in fact `death' personified. And this, along with spectacular cinematography, helps to give it a kind of misty-eyed, almost magical feel.
The subject matter, however, is far from that. The viewer is shown the harsh realities of life in Nazi-rising WW11 Germany. And, it's quite a shock actually to discover that they, like us Brits, were just as scared, just as poverty-stricken and just as much at the mercy of the Hitler-led regime. Young Sophie Nelisse, the actress in the lead-role of Liesel, lends a wide-eyed innocence to the whole proceedings and is well supported by a talented Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson in the roles of her adoptive parents, who take her on (for money ) when she is removed from her own communist mother's care. Harbouring a young Jewish man, Max, is the centre of the story and it is Liesel's relationship with all three of the afore-mentioned, and a neighbouring school friend, Rudy, that fuel it.
Having arrived illiterate, Liesel is taught to read and write by `Papa' Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush), whose patience, kindness and humour are ever to the fore, and which contrast sharply with the "thunder storm" (Liesel's words) that is his wife, Rosa (Emily Watson) - who actually is not quite as formidable as she might at first seem. Liesel's quest for books, reading, and words in general, is further aided by Max's enthusiasm for such. He relies on her to keep him informed of the world, as his view is somewhat marred by being kept in the dark, cold basement of the house, unable to see the light of day. Liesel's hunger for books is both sated and increased when the local Mayor's wife allows her access to the mayorial household library - from where she later `borrows' the odd tome after creeping in uninvited. (She insists she is not a "thief" - as the film's title would suggest!)
I will not spoil the plotline for those who have not yet seen this little gem of a movie, suffice to say that, as mentioned in the book's 'blurb' I believe, "death visits Liesel three times". She certainly grows up quickly and, like so many of that era, witnesses things that young eyes should really not see. But it is how she, and those around her, cope with adversity that is central to this film, where hatred and morality vie for places, and where neighbour is turned against neighbour and fear and suspicion are the order of the day. Surviving can only make one stronger and there are some surprising twists that develop in that very plot-line; fate can indeed be teasingly, and often ironically, fickle.
I hope this film gets the appreciation (and awards) it deserves as it is beautifully scripted, sensitively directed, superbly acted and tantalising to watch (I didn't even notice that two and a half hours had passed.) The sadness and sheer stupidity of fascism at its height is off-set by the realisation of the strength of the human spirit to transcend such darkness. In the end, I was left feeling sad (in that sort of deeply moved way that only a great cinematic experience seems to evoke) yet also inspired and uplifted.
As the story opens, it is 1938, and a young German girl whose mother cannot keep her, is sent to live with strangers. Little Liesel adjusts to her new life with the help of her kindly new Papa and the books she steals, which teach her to read. But life becomes frightening when the war starts and the family decides to hide a Jew in their home.
This is an exquisite movie, the best I've seen a long time. The story is unforgettable and the cast is outstanding. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are wonderful as Liesel's foster parents Sophie Nelisse is perfectly cast as Liesel, growing from age 8 to 16. We see the war through her eyes; she is unflinchingly brave and lovable.
There is a small amount of violence, mostly bombing, with just enough good people to show that life is worth living. This is a tear-jerker, but well worth watching.