The Book Thief - Review
Starring one of my favorite working actors Geoffrey Rush, along with Sophie Nelisee, Emily Watson and Ben Schnetzer, The Book Thief, is a simply and somewhat moving story about a vivacious strong willed young girl named Liesel who is sent to foster parents in Nazi Germany during World War II to live.
Early in the film a young handsome stranger knocks on their door named Max; a young Jewish man who comes to their home to hide from Nazis who are systematically going door to door rounding up citizens for relocation to concentration camps. With the help of Hans, his wife and Sophie they make the family effort to conceal Max’s presence in their basement away from all friends and officials in their quaint small cottage town.
It doesn’t take long before Max and Liesel become good friends which is where the story transitions with Max helping Liesel to overcome her inability to read. Each day from a book she retrieved from her dead brother’s coat at his funeral Max takes her under his wing passing the time of day together by helping her to learn how to read. But he also encourage her to start thinking about the words she is reading, to think about their meaning and eventually how to write down in a journal Max gave her for Christmas her personal thoughts detailing her exterior adventures from her days outside the home.
As the movie story goes Liesel appreciates with greater maturity, joy and reverence the power of books in her life, as well as her relationship with her basement dwelling friend Max’s who is the embodiment of encouragement in her using her imagination about the world she is reading about. And while her books in the basement with Max do offer some measure of genuine escape from the realities of the ravages of an ever encroaching war, her exterior adventures with her close school friend Rudy perilously reminds her constantly both figuratively and literally of it’s cruelty of that war from the sounds of not too distant bombings, the military raids of neighbors homes and the propaganda infused speeches during the public display of book burnings.
The Book Thief is a very well intentioned film, with a very huge heart on display through its screenplay. It makes every effort to be a very sweet, endearing and precocious while also attempting to create the feeling of real angst with real life and death brutal facts on display from this historical war. It wants to be both a bit romantic with its fairy tale milieu and demeanor and yet try to effectively deal with issues of bigotry and the atrocities of the holocaust as well. And while it is very respectful on this matter with this conflicted dance of emotions there were few instances I was a bit bothered by its occasional “happy face” approach to telling this story.
Still, and generally speaking, with the exception of some structural directorial uneven writing miscues and maybe a little too long of a running time, The Book Thief still offered up a very entertaining two plus hours of how sometimes the most simplistic of things such as the masterfully written word can sometimes be the unsuspected genesis and driving catalyst to forging a nurturing relationship who’s affect becomes something meaningful, so much so that within some it eternally endures.
3 – 1/2 Stars