The Reader (2008): The Film Adaptation


     The Reader, a film adaptation of the book of the same title is a romantic drama movie that is fit for the emotionally mature and discerning individual; this movie is packed with themes to think about, and questions that are worth pondering. The plot is centered on young 15-year old Michael Berg (David Kross) who meets Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet), a much older woman, when he was sick and vomiting near her place. The two develop an affair which included a ritual of Berg’s reading to her; it lasted for a summer’s time and abruptly ended. Years later, Michael Berg becomes law student who is attending a public hearing regarding the trial of the six lady guards at Auschwitz, one of which is Hanna Schmitz.

The Reader
     The caliber of this movie is only of the best: nontypical and dramatic story line, convincing acting by the actors; this movie will bring out emotions but not in an overt way—the beauty is in the subtlety of portrayal. The style goes from a series of flashbacks to the much older Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes).

     I believe one of the themes that are portrayed in this movie is the question of subjectivity versus objectivity. Yes, it’s a given that Hanna Schmitz was a involved in the murders at Auschwitz and that she is definitely not a victim of the circumstance. If you look at it like that she is definitely guilty because the law is objective; morality is objective. But then you take into account the fact that she admitted her sins never tried to make what she did less than it was, that she explained her actions even if they were questionable, that her fellow guards are conniving against her:  doesn’t that count? Are morality and the truth always ramrod straight? Or rather do morality and truth only see the surface?
Hanna Schmitz and young Michael Berg

     Through Michael Berg’s first-hand experience, we see that things are not what they are on the surface. We cannot condemn others on the premise of their being evil and immoral as with Hanna Schmitz’s case. There are details that we do not have a grasp on that somehow explain their actions.

Hanna Schmitz on trial
     The Reader also shows the poignancy of the relationship between Michael Berg and Hanna Schmitz. They have only been with each other for a summer yet they affect each other for a lifetime. They connect physically, emotionally and intellectually. They connect somehow through the barriers of prison and time. Whatever fear was holding Michael Berg back, I think it wasn’t worth it to fight for Hanna when he was probably her only hope.

     Meanwhile, Hanna in her own little way achieved her own victory. It was being able to read and not only that but never backing down from what you believe in even if everything goes against you. She did what she had to and was never ashamed.

     In the end this movie is tragic, poignant and profound. It is not a question of right or wrong like the law since life in reality is not black and white.   The Reader is full with themes that will make you think while bringing out powerful emotions from powerful performances. 


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