Reading the Past

Stephen Daldry, 2008

The Reader was on Star Movies a while ago. The film was directed by Stephen Daldry, the guy who introduced us to Billy Elliot. Daldry's film is set in Germany, after the second World War. It stars Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes.

Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes), a lawyer, recalls the first time he met Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet), a kind and enigmatic woman who is almost 20 years older than him. They have a secret love affair. Hanna asks Michael to read for her because she prefers to listen rather than read. Their affair ended after Hanna mysteriously left without a trace.

Ten years later, Michael went to law school. As law students, Michael and his classmates are exposed to an actual trial, which had Hanna as one of the defendants. Turns out, Hanna was an SS officer during World War II. The Holocaust survivors point out Hanna as one of the officers responsible for the death of their fellow prisoners. What follows is Hanna's reason why she makes other people read for her, a sad revelation that even Michael didn't know until the trial.

Although the film is called "The Reader," Hanna had a heavier character weight than the reader himself, Michael. They inspire each other, but she inspires him more. She occupies his thoughts. Their affair is very short, but Michael still can't forget Hanna, his first love. What he shared with Hanna was the most poignant relationship he ever had. Michael and Hanna knew that theirs is a forbidden love, but they felt a deep connection with each other. And that connection tied them together.

Kate Winslet is very compelling as Hanna Schmitz. I really think that this is one of her best performances. Hanna's innocence and her tragedy are brilliantly portrayed by Winslet. Ralph Fiennes is undeniably a good actor, but he's just outstaged by Winslet and David Kross (who played the younger Michael).

Stephen Daldry did a great job with The Reader. He lets us watch and experience something heartbreaking. The cinematography is very nice. The photography during Hanna and Michael's trip was breathtaking. The makeup is magical, you can see how Kate Winslet will look like 30 years later. The music is usually somber, adding an air of dysphoria to the film.

Daldry's film shows us that no matter how we run away from the past, it will always find us. It's sad, but it happens.

Trailer for The Reader:

DISCLAIMER: No copyright infringement intended. I don't own or claim to own any of the photos used.


Michael Mata said...

My mom also highly recommends this movie to me. I haven't watched it yet but after eading your review, I'll be sure to.

That Film Enthusiast said...

For me, it's one of the unforgettable films I've seen. Probably because of how the film broke my heart :D

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