Death looms amidst the crescendo of bombs, the echoes of war and feverish nationalism. But ‘Death’ waits for Liesel.
Hello moviegoers, today I’ll be taking a look at “The Book Thief” Director Brian Percival’s interpretation of Michael Petroni’s adaptation of the Novel by the same name. The movie takes place during World War II Nazi Germany and focuses on wide-eyed Liesel Meminger, played by Sophie Nélisse, who is curious about books but is unable to read them.
Percival does not overwhelm us with many of the atrocities of war. Instead, he is understated in telling Liesel’s story which is told from the point of view of Death whose disembodied presence is also the narrator of the film and is voiced by Roger Allam.
‘The Book Thief’ (3 sweet potatoes out of four) Stars: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Ben Schnetzer, Nico liersch, Roger Allam; Director: Brian Percival; Genre: Drama; Rated PG-13; Runtime: 131 minutes; plays nationwide Friday, November 29th.
When her mother can no longer care for her, she is adopted by Hans and Rose Hubermann who are well-played by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, respectively as normal folk existing in Hitler’s Germany. Hans goes to say good night for the first time and finds Liesel with a gravedigger’s book which she took possession of at her brother’s burial. He realizes she is unable to read and will help her learn.
Liesel is befriended by Rudy a charming and decent lad (who’s played by Nico Liersch). He idolizes Jesse Owens and gets in trouble for his imitation when he paints himself black, in what is a pretty funny scene. There are other humorous moments like this that help the movie along. Liesel and Rudy attend a book burning ceremony where national pride is on full display. Here, Liesel snatches another book this time from the smoldering ashes of the fire.
During the Kristallnacht which translates to ‘Night of Broken Glass’ a young Jewish man Max (played by Ben Schnetzer) escapes the grasp of Hitler’s forces. The Hubermann’s shelter him fulfilling a promise Hans made to a friend once for saving his life. Cooped up in the cold basement, Max falls ill during the Christmas season and Liesel would read to him books which she steals from a home she delivers laundry to. The two develop a strong bond that makes it difficult for Liesel to accept when Max has to leave to avoid capture by the authorities.
Hans is later conscripted for speaking up on behalf of a longtime neighbor who is identified as a Jew. He eventually makes it back home but the increasing frequency of air raids heightens the uncertainty that preoccupies most residents. In one scene in a bomb shelter Liesel tells a story too calm the fears or at least distract the others, for a while.
The casting in the “The Book Thief” is excellent with fine performances from Rush and Watson of course, but also Sophie Nélisse who’s Liesel with her expressive eyes and rugged determination to learn make us all accessories to the crime of theft. I give ‘The Book Thief’ 3 sweet potatoes out of four.
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