The Book Thief (2013) - Another sophisticated and lengthy drama about Germany's most evil twelve years in history - 7/10 (06/12/13)
Here comes another Nazi drama set in Germany under Adolf Hitler's dictatorship. It's so sad that a country with such a rich history is often reduced to only twelve years of its past. Where are moving dramas about the fight for German independence in 1848? Where are war movies about the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 that changed an entire continent? Where are conspiracy thriller related to the dramatic Spartacist uprising in 1919? Where are tragicomedies about the sad period of the Weimar Republic? What about a valuable movie about the creation or the fall of the Berlin Wall? All people get to see in relation to Germany are movies about evil Nazis. It's getting really redundant and closed- minded by now.
Despite its content, I decided to watch the movie because it had received excellent critics and because the events are shown through the eyes of a young girl whose mother was a Communist, whose young brother died and who must integrate into a small town where she lives with her new parents and meets a lot of interesting people from an imaginative but sick Jew hiding in her host parents' basement over the literate and melancholic major's wife to her new best friend and neighbour Rudi who is in love with her and some Nazi bullies and her rude children. The concept is interesting enough and ultimately works thanks to a convincing acting by the empathic and wise host father played by Geoffry Rush, his emotional and severe wife portrayed by Emily Watson and some convincing youth actors such as Nico Liersch. I'm still asking myself why the Germans weren't portrayed by German actors in here which would have been even more credible, especially concerning the main character, but this is only a slightly irritating detail.
Apart of the acting, the movie convinces with greatly detailed settings and appropriate moods that really put you right inside a small German town during wartime. The movie is atmospheric and feels authentic and realistic as well. The camera and light work as well as the choices for images and words are very well done. The use of a few German words here and there works well but would have needed a few subtitles for those who don't speak that language.
The problem is that it takes quite a while to get into the mood of this film and until significant events happen like the host father's departure for war or the dramatic bombings of the small town. It's a good idea to show the everyday life of those villagers but this movie definitely has its lengths and lacks a coherent story line. Some people might leave the movie alone after thirty or even forty minutes because of its slow pace. You definitely need to bring some attention, patience and some historical knowledge to fully appreciate this film. I didn't have any personal problem with that but it might definitely be considered as a weakness by many.
What I found even worse is the idea that the story is told by a voice that introduces himself as the Death. I think this adds nothing to the story and it feels like a pseudo-intellectual touch close to arrogance. I also had my problems with the abrupt ending and the movie's epilogue. Where the almost sarcastically incidental but grisly expectable ending of "All Quiet on the Western Front" worked very well, the similar idea used for "The Book Thief" isn't what you have been prepared for since the beginning of the movie and feels rather random.
Fans of sophisticated movies set in Nazi time and slow paced dramas with a lot of details will appreciate this movie which might even get some Academy Awards nominations because this kind of challenging movie is what older critics like. Anyone else should be sure to bring some background knowledge and patience to enjoy this film. It's a quite solid book adaption but definitely not a classic or the biggest highlight of the year.« Oldboy (2013) - One of the better Hollywood remakes - 8/10 (03/12/13)The Metaphor - The City Of Pathos, A Saint Of Shame (2013) (8/10) »
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