[critical] The Reader

West germany, in the aftermath of the Second world War.

A teenager, Michael Berg, by accident, to the knowledge of Hanna, a woman of thirty-five years, of which he became the lover. Then begins a binding secret and passionate.

For several months, Michael joined Hanna at her every day, and one of their games is to what he reads.

He discovers little by little the pleasure she feels during this ritual while he reads him The Odyssey, Huckleberry Finn and The Lady with the little dog.

Hanna remains mysterious and unpredictable. One day, she disappears, leaving Michael heartbroken.

Eight years later, now a law student, Michael attends the trial of war crimes as a Nazi. He found Hanna… on the bench of the accused.

Little by little, the past secret of Hanna is unveiled to the big day…

Author’s Note


Release Date : July 15, 2009

Directed by Stephen Daldry

Film German, american

With Ralph Fiennes, Kate Winslet, David Kross…

Duration : 2h 03min

Trailer :

The Reader has this little something, this charm that we can not describe, this sincerity that made films of Stephen Daldry melodramas heavy, maybe too heavy, but sensitive in terms of its other achievements (Billy Elliot and The Hours are the most obvious examples).

One thing is for sure, The Reader has not finished talking to him, and to divide the crowds.

If the first 30 minutes of the film leave quite doubtful, as they switch The Reader into yet another romance that will achieve nothing and who has no interest in our eyes, the second part catches up with ample boredom that we won at the start.

The Reader takes all its meaning at the opening of the trial : the film alternates subtly present, and future and the scenario is focused around 3 characters who are very good in their respective roles : Kate Winslet is breath-taking talent, it explodes literally in front of the camera and definitely deserves its Oscar despite a bitter fight with Angelina Jolie, she is also very good, in The Exchange of Clint Eastwood ; Ralph Fiennes is also ingenious credibility even if it was in the habit to feel more involved, more charismatic and less deleted in its benefits earlier (The Constant Gardener, Spyder and The English Patient to name only a few), and David Kross who, because of his brilliant delivery, restraint, finesse, goods are good days ahead.

This trio is deeply moving and gives a special dimension to this love story that is ambiguous, sometimes unhealthy, and lost.

The fact that the scenario takes place after the second world war and the facts on which Kate Winslet are judged are not really captivating, they are only a mere pretext for a morality “nice” and a psychology more or less complete on the holocaust and forgiveness. Because it is necessary to admit, in the end, The Reader (unfortunately) leaves us with ice in the face of the subject repeatedly discussed but rarely successful. The end is emotional but a bit of a cliché : we see the end arrive from miles away.

The Reader is almost only to see for the benefit of his characters. Because level achievement, something also bothers : a heaviness pervades the film from its beginning, never to leave. The culprit is certainly not the theme itself, despite that he is somewhat responsible, but the realization of Stephen Daldry , the lack of personality and consistency, and that is simply failed in its attempt to give the film a certain darkness is much too slow and poor and awkward for such a topic. More modesty and simplicity we have made the pill much more easily because the wire of the minutes, this realization becomes suffocating, sweltering, see tiresome.

We can obviously dismiss or even oppress critics such footage, but one can only to be inevitably disappointed by the final result, well away from the image that the media had built around this film’s so-called revolutionary and spooky.

The Reader is an adaptation relatively faithful to the book by Bernhard Schlink from 1995 to his or her atmosphere and his speech, but quite bland in its execution and its set. The book was also far more bold and profound than the movie is at the level of the very tricky subject.

The Reader is, therefore, considered as a playground royal where Kate Winslet amazes us by transcending his character and pushing a little further his talent as a chameleon after Little Children by Todd Field and The Wedding Rebels of Sam Mendes.

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