Monday, 19 January 2009

REVIEW: The Reader

This is quite a boring review to write because I didn’t feel very strongly about this film either way. I’ll therefore make it short.

The primary reason anyone will see this film is because of Kate Winslet’s Golden Globe-winning and Bafta-nominated performance as Hana Schmidt. In fairness, it’s a good performance. But it is ‘subtle-good’, as opposed to ‘Heath Ledger’s immortal, you’ll-never-forget-it Joker’ good. As for the Award-attention, it’s not exactly surprising. Since Titanic, Winslet has always been Academy-friendly and now she is playing a controversial, illiterate, often-nude Nazi. If she doesn’t get an Oscar this year, then she never will.

And that would be the greatest irony of her career, especially after Ricky Gervais made her say in Extras (paraphrased): “Holocaust films guarantee you an Oscar.”

Other than Winslet, you are left with a grim, cathartic film (a standard Stephen Daldry picture then) about a law student who has an affair with a tram conductor one summer, only to find out years later at Law School that she became an SS guard at Auschwitz. In short, there is little to make you smile but lots to make you cry. The harrowing scenes of the young Michael Berg (David Kross, who definitely should have been nominated for the Orange Rising Star Award) visiting the real remains of Auschwitz are particularly disturbing. There are also prison scenes, a suicide and – just to make sure you leave feeling glum – a final scene at a graveyard.

Ultimately, like Che, you have to be in the right state of mind to see this film: curiosity more than a desire to be entertained. This is definitely not Saturday night, popcorn-fodder.

I’m glad I saw it – powerful, emotional, thought-provoking, blah, blah, blah – but I won’t be watching it again. Ever.

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