The Reader

by

Director – Stephen Daldry

Writers – David Hare (screenplay), Bernhard Schlink (book)

Starring – Kate Winslet, David Cross and Ralph Fiennes

Synopsis

Set in Germany during WWII, teenager Michael Berg (Cross) becomes ill and is helped home by Hanna (Winslet); a stranger twice his age. He recovers and returns to thank her and the two of them end up in a passionate, secret affair in which he reads to her and they make love. After a few weeks of romping, Hanna disappears and Michael is left confused and heartbroken. Eight years later Michael (still played by Cross) sees Hanna as the defendant in a Nazi war crime trial. As Hanna’s past is revealed, Michael uncovers a deep secret that will impact both of their lives.

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Review

“Der Vorleser”, written by Bernhard Schlink, topped New York Times bestseller list and, naturally, Hollywood wanted a slice of the pie. Ofcourse, the first obstacle to overcome was that it is a German book. The solution? Have the actors speak English in a German accent. Bad English. And not even good bad English! I must blame the actors for not doing their homework on what German people sound like when speaking English; in general the letter “w” turns into “v” which none of the actors picked up on. This resulted in Fiennes sounding English most of time (lets face it he’s a piss-poor actor anyway); Winslet sounding Australian, constantly referring to her lover as “kid” (which will drive you insane) and the audience being totally baffled as to what’s going on.

Hanna was a character that showed promise for me. How did she become so desperate as to sleep with a 15 year old? What affect would having an affair with a teenager have on her? These questions are dutifully unanswered by director Stephen Daldry, as he drowns the character of her background; his first act of character abuse. Daldry shows us at least 5 sex scenes between Hanna and Michael in the first act alone; whilst showing at most one shot of character development (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of her single bed) that tells us nothing more than she is single. The first time you see Winslet’s pair its like – “yeah there’s her tits”, and then after seeing them a dozen more times in, quite frankly, ridiculous circumstances the novelty starts to wear thin. If this attracts you to see the film, do yourself a favour and watch Titanic; they are better and the reveal is timely and justified. Winslet does her best with a truly bewildering character that is basically just an angry book whore who accepts reading as payment for sex. How a character such as Michael supposedly falls in love with this creature is far beyond my knowledge; in the real world it could happen, but fiction needs to be believable and this simply is not.

Daldry’s woes do not end with Hanna and the relationship. He jolts between timeframes (of which there are 4) disjointedly and whimsically, in a desperate attempt to find the timeframe in which Michael is a character worth watching. Fiennes (the leech) has an unnatural and unrivaled ability to sap any charisma and energy out of the characters that he plays. Combine that with a wafer thin script (that will frequently have you clenching your fist in frustration) and an awkward German accent and the result is what promises to be the most boring character of the year. Daldry throws other characters into the mix; one of which is Michael’s daughter. The bizarre 5 minute scene in which she is introduced and breaks down into tears is a spectacle to behold and is just one of the many scenes that leaves you wondering “what was he thinking?”.

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After just watching the trailer for myself (partly to steal images for this review); the film looks to have an action packed court case. Alas, the trial will have you gritting your teeth and  in frustration with Daldry taking us outside of the courtroom to let us watch Michael light a cigarette and cry a bit every time it heats up. The score leaves you feeling unfulfilled and empty, while the cinematography showed some form of intelligence; with one shot in particular framing Winslet in the tram station.

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The Reader had the promise to do great things. If it had been done well it could have been a moving story of love, morality and justice. However, with the aid of David Hare and Ralph Fiennes, Daldry manages to suck the essence out of the story and leave us with a cold and confusing husk.

If you are still interested in watching this movie, please watch and listen to Fiennes in the trailer and see how long you can bear it for. It only gets worse.

Overall – About as much fun as Hanukka in Auschwitz

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One Response to “The Reader”

  1. Snizzle left in Brizzle Says:

    so you didn’t like it much? lol

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