Director: Stephen Daldry
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Kate Winslet, David Kross, Lena Olin, Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara
RunTime: 2 hrs 4 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: R21 (Sexual Scenes)
Official Website: http://www.weinsteinco.com/#/film/thereader/
Day: 22 January 2009
"The Reader" opens in post-WWII Germany when teenager Michael Berg becomes ill and is helped home by Hanna, a stranger twice his age. Michael recovers from scarlet fever and seeks out Hanna to thank her. The two are quickly drawn into a passionate but secretive affair.
Michael discovers that Hanna loves being read to and their physical relationship deepens. Hanna is enthralled as Michael reads to her from "The Odyssey," "Huck Finn," and "The Lady with the Little Dog." Despite their intense bond, Hanna mysteriously disappears one day and Michael is left confused and heartbroken.
Eight years later, while Michael is a law student observing the Nazi war crime trials, he is stunned to find Hanna back in his life – this time as a defendant in the courtroom. As Hanna's past is revealed, Michael uncovers a deep secret that will impact both of their lives. "The Reader" is a haunting story about truth and reconciliation, about how one generation comes to terms with the crimes of another.
It was five years ago when English writer David Hare worked with director Stephen Daldry on the heartbreaking The Hours (2002). Based of Michael Cunningham’s novel, the writer director pair made a film which had Nicole Kidman bringing home an Oscar statuette for Best Actress with her intense performance of Virginia Woolf.
Five years later, the duo would make another film based on Bernhard Schlink’s novel. And it looks like the film’s leading lady Kate Winslet would be bringing home some awards with her memorable performance too. The English actress has already bagged a Golden Globe for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” during the recent event. Something tells us that she’d need to prepare more thank you speeches in the upcoming months.
Winslet plays a German woman (check out that authentic accent) who develops an affair with a young boy during post World War II period. The sexual relationship gradually turns into a bond of love which both parties cannot pull out of. One day, she leaves him without notice and what follows are years of regret, betrayal and a painful resolution that will affect the protagonists’ lives forever.
Daldry holds no bars when it comes to the sex scenes between Winslet and young German actor David Kross, who affectively plays the young boy. Viewers would be left in awe during the first third of the 124 minute film, primarily because of the full on nudity and the age difference between Winslet and Kross. Don’t worry – nothing too graphic or too offensive here because this is, after all, an artistically produced film.
There are some pretty decent production values to gape at in this finely made picture too. The steady cinematography does not distract you from the well told story. There aren’t any flashily executed scenes – what will make you sit up and look will be the well composed shots which add a refined touch to the film. Watch out for some effective close up shots of mouths sipping soup and a pair of feet climbing onto a table, and you’d know what we mean. Also, listen out for some nicely edited sound sequences as well. Whether it’s an overlapping of reading voices or a simple car horn during a quiet scene, these sound designs complement the film adequately.
We also know that this movie was made to attract the awards’ panels of judges as well. How else would you explain the presence of assured actors like Ralph Fiennes (who plays the older version of the male protagonist) and Winslet? The filmmakers know they need a capable cast to carry this heavy film, and they have found the correct pairing. Experience Fiennes’ tension to live with the truth, and more evidently, Winslet’s emotionally engaging performance as she plays her character from young to old. There are no scenes of her character carrying out the crime she’s accused of, but the courtroom scene which deals with this carries with it so much strain and anxiety, you can almost picture the severity of the situation in your mind.
Make no mistake, this is Winslet’s show, and she didn’t need a prosthetic nose to carry it off (well, to be frank, the make up helped).
(A heavy tale supported by Winslet’s emotionally engrossing performance)
Review by John Li