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Movie Review: The Reader

Alternate Title: Sex. Lies and Literature

Story: The nature of evil is not easily transcribed onto the big screen unless you are going for a slash and burn type depiction. For those familiar with the best selling book, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (it was an Oprah pick, too) you can imagine the challenge that director Stephen Daldry (Billy Eliot) and writer David Hare had as they tackled this popular bestseller that has been translated into 39 languages and was the first German book to make it onto the NY Times bestseller list.

The film is divided into two parts. The first part, which I found more interesting, involves 15 year old Michael Berg, who has a brief, but passionate affair with a 36 year old woman named Hanna. Via flashbacks, we see Berg as an adult reflecting on the nature of their relationship, as he accidentally comes across her after many years while she is on trial for war crimes. The collective guilt of the German psyche and tough questions involving the nature of evil and shame and the possibility of redemption are tackled and to some extent are successful.

The film demonstrates handily the thousands of Germans who were involved in war crimes yet got away with their deeds. The following generations of Germans who have to live with what went on in their country is measurably depicted in this difficult film.

This is certainly not a film for everyone but if you read the book, like millions of others, you will find a reward for your efforts. The production values are top rate as is the acting, editing and direction.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FdQ3Y7royU

Acting: Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz, is riveting. She cannot give a bad performance. No one does haunted like Ralph Fiennes, who plays the adult Michael Berg. He seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. David Kross as the Young Michael Berg is wonderful. Lena Olin play two parts well as Rose Mather/Ilana Mather.

Trivia: Kate Winslet is not afraid to disrobe in front of the camera. Here are some of the films where she has shown her beautiful body: Quills, Jude, Titanic, Hideous Kinky, Heavenly Creatures, Iris, Holy Smoke and now The Reader.

Predilection: I liked the book.

Critters: A German Shepard - really.

Food: Soup and some unappealing other stuff.

Sex Spectrum: Lots of sex, including male frontal nudity and of course, Kate Winslet at her usual best.

Soundtrack: Depressing music by Nico Muhly.

Visual Art: A terrific depiction of cold, damp and depressing Europe in the winter by directors of photography, Chris Menges and Roger Deakins;

Theater Audience: About 25 people who were all reading before the previews started.

Weather: Europe is gray, gloomy and dark in the winter.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: The Holocaust is a very squirmy subject.

Drift Factor: It could have been edited a bit.

Predictability Level: I read the book so there were no surprises.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Why not? A screen adaptation from another source might get a nod.

Big Screen or Rental: Either would be fine. I highly recommend you read the book too.

Length: Two hours.