Movie Details

The READER

The story opens in post-WWII Germany when teenager Michael Berg becomes ill and is helped home by Hanna, a stranger twice his age. Michael recovers from scarlet fever and seeks out Hanna to thank her. The two are quickly drawn into a passionate but secretive affair. Despite their intense bond, Hanna mysteriously disappears one day and Michael is left confused and heartbroken. Eight years later, while Michael is a law student observing the Nazi war crime trials, he is stunned to find Hanna back in his life - this time as a defendant in the courtroom. As Hanna`s past is revealed, Michael uncovers a deep secret that will impact both of their lives.

Language: English
Subtitle: NA
Classification: R21
Release Date: 5 Feb 2009
Genre: Drama / War / Romance
Running Time: 2 Hours 4 Minutes
Distributor: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES
Cast: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, Alexandra Maria Lara, Bruno Ganz
Director: Stephen Daldry
Format: NA

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Review
Writer: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang Yang

Writer Ratings:
Overall:
Cast:
Plot:
Effects: NA
Cinematography:

Watch this if you liked: "Billy Elliot", "The Hours", "Twin Sisters"

Easily the weakest of Stephen Daldry's three feature-length films, "The Reader" is a muted, half-baked examination of German guilt that does however come off as very accessible compared to the rest of his works.

The regrettable absence of a Philip Glass score and a less meditative narration have turned it into a people-pleasing mainstream piece that'd have sunk if not for the Oscar-winning performance from Kate Winslet, one of the finest British actresses from her generation. It'd be impossible to discuss this film without referring to her fragile yet angry, womanly countenance, a precision in acting that does elevate the film to another level of cinematic delight.

"The Reader", to risk a spoiler, isn't a Nazi or Holocaust movie. Clocking in under two hours (post-censorship), we're taken on the psychosexual adventure of one Michael Berg, who chances upon an older woman named Hanna Schmitz one summer and subsequently experiences an affair most 15-year-olds never get. Years later after the ordeal, he ends up an aspiring lawyer in court, listening in to the case of his one-time lover who is now being tried for war crimes. It's a fleeting love story just as much as it is a study of shame and guilt.

The greatest triumph of this movie is the humanisation of Hanna Schmitz as the SS guard - it was a wonderful and completely plausible explanation on how ordinary people could do horrendous things when we're on the outside looking in. Kate Winslet has done much better than this ("Holy Smoke" 1999, "Sense And Sensibility" 1995) but her intense, 'annoyed' portrayal of an older lover is absolutely delightful to watch. The casting of young David Kross (who learned English for the movie and was afforded a special scheduling arrangement so that his sex scenes could be filmed when he turned 18) is creepy because he looks so much like the late Heath Ledger. However, together with the old Michael Berg (played by Ralph Fiennes) and other peripherals like Lena Olin, it was always a line-up that seemed to be built around Winslet's stellar performance, although it obviously wasn't meant to.

Still, the biggest grouse against Daldry's third film is his decision to understate things, despite a successful partnership with David Hare to adhere to Bernhard Schlink's source material.

"The Reader" was the least watched and least known Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. This is still a very good chance to catch it and discover some compelling, though flawed, European drama.

Cinema Online, 02 March 2009
   
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Classification
Effective 15 July 2011
G - Suitable for all ages
PG - Suitable for all ages, but parents should provide guidance to their young
PG13 - Suitable for persons aged 13 and above, but parental guidance is advised for children below 13
NC16 - Suitable for persons aged 16 years and above
M18 - Suitable for persons aged 18 years and above
R21 - Restricted to persons aged 21 and above only
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