The Reader

2009-03-31 13:34
 

What it's about:

A chance meeting between schoolboy Michael Berg (David Kross) and 30-something tram conductor Hannah Schmidt (Kate Winslet) in 1959 leads to a short but passionate affair. Hannah always makes Michael read to her from the novels he is studying when they meet, and he becomes smitten with her. Hannah suddenly disappears and the affair ends, but some years later while he is studying law at university, Michael sits in on the trial of several SS guards and recognises Hannah as one of the accused. His initial shock turns to horror as he tries to come to terms with the crimes of the past, while dealing with his life in the present.

What it's about:

After all the Oscar hype, The Reader is guaranteed a fairly decent turnout from the South African art house crowd, and it shouldn’t disappoint. Even though it is a historical drama, the themes of loyalty versus complicity, and reconciling with a horrific past are universal, and offer ample food for thought.

Despite Kate Winslet’s Oscar victory, The Reader belongs to her teenage co-star David Kross, as it is through his eyes that we watch the story unfold. Considering his youth and the fact that the German had to greatly improve his English for the role, his performance is beyond impressive. He is completely convincing as the schoolboy who can’t believe his luck during this relationship with Hannah, and his naïve optimism is infectious, which makes the shattering of his world view all that much more devastating.

The scenes in which he finally discovers the truth about Hannah’s past are agonisingly hard to watch, but they reconcile the boy with the older, detached Michael (Ralph Fiennes) who is still in a state of inner conflict.

Hannah Schmidt will naturally be considered a career-defining role for Winslet, who has claimed she will no longer do nudity after her scenes here. Compared to the emotions laid bare, as well as playing Hannah well into her old age, the sex scenes do not seem that shocking or explicit, but rather establish the human need for contact between two isolated people.

Even in the tiny, insular world of the brief affair, she manages to show a subtle level of menace. To her credit, Winslet never tries to make Hannah either overly sympathetic or understandable – she is a strange and damaged human being whose evil tendencies are thoroughly entangled with her humanity.

The Reader is sometimes uncomfortable viewing, both for its frank look at the deeds and twisted politics of the Holocaust, and the close examination of dysfunctional people. As downbeat as that sounds, it manages to remain entertaining through excellent performances.



Kate Winslet won the Oscar, but the standout performance in this powerful historical drama comes from her teen co-star, David Kross.

preshen govender 2009/06/12 8:45 AM
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I watched it for Kate’s nude screen
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