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The Reader (2008)

Director:
Stephen Daldry
AKA
Der Vorleser
COUNTRY
USA/Germany
GENRE
Drama
NORWEGIAN TITLE
The Reader
RUNNING TIME
124 minutes
Producer:
Donna Gigliotti
Anthony Mingella
Redmond Morris
Sydney Pollack
Screenwriter (based on the book "Der Vorleser"):
David Hare


Cast includes:

CHARACTER ACTOR/ACTRESS RATING
Michael Berg Ralph Fiennes
Hanna Schmitz Kate Winslet
Young Michael Berg David Kross
Rose Mather / Ilana Mather Lena Olin
Professor Rohl Bruno Ganz

 

Review

The awkward handling of the language barrier, in which English with fake German accents is replacing actual German in the old-fashioned and not too stylish manner, isn't the deepest of The Reader's problems, even if it does little to help the case. Kate Winslet stars as a former nazi servant whose horrendous acts during WWII come back to haunt her some twenty years later. In the meantime, she has a sexual summer flirt with a 15-year-old boy (Kross) whose eventual obsession with the woman colours the rest of his life.

The Reader is at its best portraying the interdependency and steaming eroticism of Michael and Hanna's relationship. David Kross' passionate and energtic performance animates an otherwise detached film, giving it a much needed zest. Unfortunately, it all becomes flat and spiritless in the film's second half, and Stephen Daldry's bland direction can do little to reverse the process.

Instead, we suffer through this self-conscious and dwelling drama along with the aged Michael who, in all fairness, should have let it all go a long time ago. There is some powerful material along the way, such as the courtroom sequences in which a great Winslet makes Hanna's personal denial clear to us, but it is hard to sympathise with a character whose choices are so destuctive and unsatisfactorily motivated as hers. As The Reader approaches the end, there is too much symbolism and too little progress for this potentially potent story to make the wanted impact.

 

Copyright 11.3.2009 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang

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