Friday, June 19, 2009

THE READER

Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross


"How far would you go to protect a secret?"




This film evolves around secrets. A secret love affair between Michael Berg (David Kross), a 15 year old boy and Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) a thirty something woman. The secret that ultimately seals Hanna's troubled fate. And Michael's (Ralph Fiennes as the older Michael) decision to conceal the said secret also ultimately affecting his guilt ridden life.

Yet although there are a lot of secrets hounding the film, the beauty lies in how these 'secrets' are slowly revealed. Powerful, dramatic yet also highly emotional scenes permeates throughout this poignant movie. A movie that a combination of a love story and war story that evolves around the two main characters.

Two uniquely different characters whose personalities are well developed and realistically portrayed by good actors. David Kross as the young Michael is refreshing to watch. His coming of age persona is characterized with his pleasantly smiley face. He was both innocently charming and brilliantly smart, at the same time in several scenes. A young German actor whose diction was flawless. He delivered his lines eloquently. His portrayal of the young Michael was memorable and registered well on screen. He also held his own when he acted opposite one of the most talented actresses in the film industry today, Kate Winslet.

This role will surely be one of the highlights of Kate Winslet's dazzling career. She was brilliant as Hanna and she truly deserved the best actress award at the Academy Awards, earlier this year. The audience will have a difficult time grasping Hanna's multi-layered but very intriguing personality. She essayed an aloof air when it comes to her affair with the young Michael. Yet in the next frame, she was also deeply emotional when he read aloud to her some of the best classic novels in literature. Then at a later stage, she exudes an air of naivete during the war crimes trial.

Ralph Fiennes as the older Michael was plausible. Michael's past indiscretions hugely affected his life. He was constantly trying to redeem himself. Towards the end, I like to believe that he indeed came clean and in some small manner was able to exorcise his personal demons.

There are several scenes of nudity but they were well executed nothing vulgar. There is a background music that lingers throughout the film without being intrusive. You hardly notice it is there unless you expressly seek it out. The setting spans through several decades in German cities like Heidelberg and Berlin. Cinematography was somewhat bleak with grainy tones. There were no disturbing images of the Holocaust yet the war crimes trial dialogue was pretty graphic.

Overall I do recommend this film for the artful way it presented a unique love story amidst a dark period in Europe's history without delving on the victims. It is more about the perpetrators of the Holocaust whose lives are also depressingly dark. In some sense they too are victims of an ugly war. But mostly watch the film for the brilliant performance of Kate Winslet and David Kross, it is worth it!

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