What is the nature of guilt--and how can the human spirit survive when confronted with deep and horrifying truths? The Reader, a hushed and haunting meditation on these knotty questions, is sorrowful and shocking, yet leav... more »ened by a deep love story that is its heart. In postwar Germany, young schoolboy Michael (German actor David Cross) meets and begins a tender romance with the older, mysterious Hanna (Kate Winslet, whose performance is a revelation). The two make love hungrily in Hanna's shabby apartment, yet their true intimacy comes as Michael reads aloud to Hanna in bed, from his school assignments, textbooks, even comic books. Hanna delights in the readings, and Michael delights in Hanna.Years later, the two cross paths again, and Michael (played as an adult by Ralph Fiennes) learns, slowly, horrifyingly, of acts that Hanna may have been involved in during the war. There is a war crimes trial, and the accused at one point asks the panel of prosecutors: "Well, what would you have done?" It is that question--as one German professor says later: "How can the next generation of Germans come to terms with the Holocaust?"--that is both heartbreaking and unanswerable. Winslet plays every shade of gray in her portrayal of Hanna, and Fiennes is riveting as the man who must rewrite history--his own and his country's--as he learns daily, hourly, of deeds that defy categorization, and morality. "No matter how much washing and scrubbing," one character says matter of factly, "some sins don't wash away." The Reader (with nods to similar films like Sophie's Choice and The English Patient dares to present that unnerving premise, without offering an easy solution. --A.T. Hurley
Stills from The Reader (Click for larger image)« less
"The Reader" deserved its Oscar for best actress, but it also deserved the Oscar for best film (it lost to the inferior "Slumdog Millionaire.") It tells the tale of a young man growing up in post-war Germany who has an affair with a mysterious older woman. Without spoiling too much, the story ends up touching on the holocaust, how much we can blame participants, and whether or not love transcends these historical pains.
Normally, I dislike holocaust films. I find that Hollywood too often beats us over the head with the "it's BAD" message (This Just In! Hollywood Geniuses Discover Holocaust Was Bad!) as opposed to mining the much more interesting tales of personal struggle, loss, redemption, and ignorance. "The Reader" offers an intelligent, probing, and insightful look at the human costs on those who were not direct victims, and on the society of post-war Germany at large. It also tells a heck of a love story, to boot.
I felt so respected by the makers of this film. There is no heavy-handed moralizing, in fact, the message of the film seems to be that, while of course there are great moral wrongs that have been perpetrated, there are lesser consequences which do not make it into history books, but do have an impact on real people and deal them real pains that ought to be respected.
As mentioned in other reviews, this is not a movie for the kids, at least not kids who still titter when they see nudity on screen. The first half of the film is consumed by a lusty affair between a 32 year old and a 15 year old. It's not for immature audiences.
On the opening scene, I thought this film must be shot on digital. The source was just too clean, with little to no film grain in evidence. Upon further research, however, I have discovered that it was indeed shot on Kodak Vision2 and Vision3 film - which Kodak advertises as producing less grain in low light and in general. Given this, and the fact that detail is generally so strong in this image, I can only assume that this Blu-Ray has been mastered without excessive Digital Noise Reduction.
It is a lovely 1.85:1 image which suits nice widescreen displays beautifully. Black levels are strong, loads of detail is evident in shadows, and colors are extremely naturalistic. There are many moments that offer the sort of "3-D" realism that the best HD can give. The quality of the image adds immediacy and impact to the already involving film.
Audio is very dialogue driven. This is not a BD that will rock your neighbors.
Extras are very strong. 42 minutes (!) of deleted scenes are presented in 480p widescreen. I watched them all, and I would say only one cut was truly unfortunate - a little bit of backstory for Michael's law professor that would have added depth to the story. Mini-documentaries are also available, touching on the writing and casting process, as well as Kate Winslet's aging with make-up. Overall, it's a very strong slate of extras.
Any fan of serious dramas and romances would do quite well to pick this up. It's a truly great movie that is very affecting and also thought provoking. It's a monument to respecting the viewer, allowing them to digest complex morality without beating them over the head with a "message." I would compare it to films like "The English Patient" or "I've Loved You So Long" (another 2008 Oscar Nominee).
It is also presented in an exceedingly beautiful HD transfer and a strong package of extras. Certainly, if you're doing a survey of 2008 Oscar nominees, you should pick this up over the trite, pat Hollywood fare of "Slumdog." It's also better than the very good, but somewhat flabby "Benjamin Button," and the excellent, but not as brainy "Milk." I can't recommend it enough."
Not for family viewing
terpfan1980 | Somewhere near Washington DC, United States | 04/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To be clear from the beginning, this is not a movie for family viewing. Throughout much of the early portions of the film viewers are treated to relatively graphic nudity for both Kate Winslet and the young man (David Kross) that plays the younger version of Ralph Fiennes.
The film covers the tale of Hanna (Winslet) and Michael (Fiennes/Kross) and their relationship and lives. The setting is NOT World War II, but is actually post WWII, starting in 1958, as well as portions set in the 60's and 70's, up thru the 1990's.
Rather than spoiling the story, I'll stop providing details on the story there, and simply say it is quite interesting. The story is based on a best-seller by Bernhard Schlink, and the filmed version features an award winning performance by Kate Winslet (Academy Award and Golden Globe). On Blu-ray the film looks beautiful showing excellent detail and clarity. The audio quality is also excellent though the film is not an action-thriller and doesn't feature the typical booming explosions and sound effects.
Most definitely worth viewing, but again not something that most families would screen around younger family members. The R rating is most definitely deserved for the graphic nudity. The language is actually surprising clean as the film focuses on the story rather than mixing in profanity just for shock value. Not necessarily a film that will be watched repeatedly, but definitely a film worth viewing."
Excellent performance by Winslet in a cerebral, disturbing d
Dennis W. Wong | 06/16/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Kate Winslet had a great year in 2008 with 2 fine films, "Revolutionary Road" which I've just seen in Blu-ray and this film which netted her a deserved Oscar though I think it would've been nice to see her split it with Angelina Jolie who also gave an excellent performance in "Changeling". Though she has little dialogue in this film, she nevertheless conveys her character through gestures and nuances while David Kloss, as the young 15 yr old she seduces, carries the guilt and conscience of the new Germany. One can see why the novel was a hugh hit in its homeland. David Hare's screenplay also deserves mention for the spare dialogue and the final confrontation scene between Ralph Fiennes as the grown up David and Lena Olin as a Holocaust survivor is one of many excellent acted scenes in this fine film. I saw this last Xmas in a theater and I intend to see it one more time on video. Special mention should made also of Bruno Ganz (Hitler in "Downfall") as David's teacher."
One of the rare one's.
T. Boards | Im out here somewhere ;) | 07/16/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I took me awhile to watch this feature, I finally did once I saw it avalible on iTunes, so I downloaded it to my iPod touch and my goodness! This movie blew me away! It's been a long time since i've seen a movie that's directly aimed at adults, genius written, beautifully shot. There wasnt one complaint coming from me."
"Well, what would you have done?"
bernie | Arlington, Texas | 06/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The story based on a popular novel "Der Vorleser" by Bernhard Schlink, takes place over several decades from the 1950's through the 1990's.
We start with a boy Michael Berg (David Kross) who is helped home by a streetcar ticket puncher Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet)when he contacts scarlet fever. After recovery, Michael goes to Hanna to thank her. One thing leads to another and they strike up a physical relationship. The relationship deepens and changes course when Michael discovers that Hanna likes to being read to. He ends up reading everything from the classics to comics. Then one day she disappears leaving Michael distraught.
Eight years later Michael rediscovers her. Only this time Michael is a law student and Hanna is on trial for war crimes and accused of voluntarily joining the SS. Michael could save her from prison but at the expense of revealing her secret. What would you do?
The story is not really about Michael (later played by Ralph Fiennes) and Hanna; it is more how the different generations in Germany come to grips with their history.
I have not read the book yet and am sure that this film is just a reflection of the story but it was played well enough to win an Oscar and nominated for many more.
I especially like the scene where Michael is reading Hamlet to Hanna. Hanna says that she does not understand it. Michael says (indignantly) it is a classic. She asked if he understands it and upon reflection, he says "NO".
I will not go into the aspects of the media as Blu-ray is the norm and does not need to be described.
William Shakespeare's Hamlet (Two-Disc Special Edition)"