Saturday, 3 January 2009

The Reader

Kate Winslet gives an excellent performance (though not as good as Streep in Doubt) in this story about a German boy/man (boy played by David Kross, older man by Ralph Fiennes) and his relationship to a mysterious woman with a dark past. Directed by Stephen Daldry , The Reader is an engaging film with a very European (specifically German) feel to it. For me, that’s a good thing. Aside from Winslet, Fiennes, and Lena Olin (who all speak English with a German accent), the actors are Germans speaking English. Kross and Bruno Ganz (in a supporting role as the law professor) are the stand-outs. The acting and German atmosphere were the highlights for me. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn’t quite measure up. In particular, the pacing is too slow and doesn’t take advantage of the story’s more dramatic moments.

Nevertheless, the story does venture into some fascinating moral issues, especially with regard to scapegoating and the question of how wide the blame for the Holocaust might be extended. Ultimately, the film may even be asking how wide the blame for the Iraq invasion, etc. may be extended (though it is hard to blame the millions who protested). There is much here to think about and talk about and many questions to consider, but the film doesn’t give us quite enough to work with (at least not as much as I would have liked). The Reader could have been a great film, but it falls a little short. Still, I give it a solid ***+ for effort. My mug is up once again (I’m going to have to watch some duds so I can empty it).

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