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The Book Thief

2014-01-24 09:31
What it's about:

The inspirational story of a spirited and courageous young girl who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a new family in World War II Germany.

What we thought:

Despite not fully living up to the book and having changed and left out many plot points and characters, The Book Thief still manages to punch you right in the humanity. A stunning cast led with the amazing chemistry between Sophie Nélisse, who plays the lead, and veteran actor Geoffrey Rush as foster daughter and father.

Not only is the story beautiful, but the cinematography, the clothes and the performances create a picture that well encapsulates the various aspects of human nature – the good, the bad and even the grey areas where survival is the most important. Like the books she steals, words are a very important element of the movie, especially when your surname could mean life or death in Nazi-Germany, and Nélisse truly brings to a child-like yet mature character to full blossom on the screen.

Another endearing character and child actor was Liesel’s best friend and neighbour, Rudy, who is a loyal friend that will leave footprints on anyone’s heart. His insistent wish for a kiss from Liesel is really heart-breaking, which is also what the movie will leave you with, and shows the purity of childhood love.

Rush and Emily Watson, who does an amazing impression of a hard-assed German woman who is really soft at heart, showed off their acting experience through a toned-down performance, which is much more powerful than the over acting that has become a norm in more mainstream movies. The voice of Death, the narrator of the story, was very appropriate with just a hint of humour in the saddest parts.

The biggest critique of the movie could be that sometimes it feels like the plot jumps big sections in the book, which is very conspicuous, and it constantly feels like Max, the Jew hiding out in Liesel’s foster family’s basement, is on the verge of death. Still, I can’t say I ever felt like the movie lost my attention which it kept with its stark portrayal the human heart.

It is also one of those movies that makes you want to read the book, which was written by Australian author Markus Zusak. As mentioned, you do feel some points were rushed over and some of the plot was also rewritten to suit an on-screen adaptation and reading the book after watching the movie can drive home some points that were missing. On its own though, the movie is still a winner in the genre of movies about German persecution in WWII, although it lacks the intensity of The Boy In The Striped Pajamas and Schindler’s List.

As with most movies set in WWII, you will cry your eyes out, but it won’t leave you with complete despair over the human condition. The Book Thief highlights that there will always be someone to give light when only Death seems to be interested in the workings of the world.

Humanity has never seemed so beautiful during a period where being human could get you killed.
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