Picture: B+ Sound: B Extras: C+ Film: C+
tricky doing any film on The Holocaust without getting criticism and there are
so many, that there may even be too many, no matter how well intended. Stephen Daldry’s film of Bernhard Schlink’s
book The Reader (2008) is a film
with good intentions about the affair of a young man and an older woman (Kate
Winslet) during WWII when she is part of Nazi operations at a death camp. Is she a killer fascist? Is she an evil woman? Or is his view of her as a good woman
accurate to some extent and she is not a war criminal?
course, they love to read books, but being literate is not the opposite of
being guilty of genocide by any means.
We learn about the two of them in flashback (Ralph Fiennes is the young
man as adult) in the ups and downs of their relationship. As she is involved with this young man and
shows her human side, it turns out she is a guard at said camp and later in
legal trials, that she was being told to decide who lives and who dies by who
should be transported on certain days.
argument the film tires to make is that we should sympathize with her, this
Nazi camp guards, despite the crimes she was involved in because she was pushed
into them by the situation of fascist conformity and is a victim of
circumstance in her own way. She is
asked why she was not objecting to what was going on, which is easy to say when
guns are not being pointed at you. I do
believe some people were victims of circumstance, conformity and bullying. The recent Bush II years show how that is
the film asks us to sympathize with her as a Nazi guard without even beginning
to deal with the complexities of how this does and does not work, substituting
melodrama with the hard facts of genocide and its many consequences. It is not to say the film is pro-Nazi or that
the makers are not bright or take the Holocaust seriously. They do.
However, they (and especially Baldry) are so busy trying to tell a
book-like narrative that the film backfires and does sadly ask us to sympathize
with a Nazi guard unquestionably; a dangerous thing. So why see the film?
Simple. Kate Winslet is so excellent playing the
woman trapped in the situation that she outacts all the flaws and problems with
the film. In her work, her face, her
body language, the diversity of her performance and her overall range speaks
everything we need to know about a woman trapped in such a situation. In Winslet’s hands, Hanna Schmitz is one of
those women who was pulled in by the situation and not an outright killer, but
trapped to enough of an extent that many would have acted the same way she did,
no matter how good a person. However,
the film is not a character study of this and falls short. Winslet does not and that is why it is one of
the greatest performances she will ever give and was deserving of the Academy
Award. As for the film that really
examines this situation, that has yet to be made. Still, The
Reader is worth seeing once just for her.
1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is one of the best Genius has issued to
date with fine detail, depth and color throughout. This holds in scenes no matter the era and
Director of Photography Chris Menges delivers on his reputation as a great
cameraman again. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1
mix is superior to the more limited Dolby Digital 5.1 mix being warmer and
richer, even for a dialogue-based film.
five featurettes including interview segments, the original theatrical trailer
and deleted scenes. They were serious
about making this work, even if they fell short. Overall, an interesting Blu-ray release.