Friday, December 12, 2008
What if one finds out that his loved one has a horrible past? How far should he go to understand the circumstance? How should he resolve the conflict between morality and emotion?
Adapted from Bernhard Schlink's best-selling novel "The Reader" (Der Vorleser), from the director of "Billy Elliot" and "The Hours", Stephen Daldry tells an unforgettable story about truth and reconciliation in his latest film "The Reader" (USA/Germany, 123 min.).
Set in 1958 in Germany, 15-year-old Michael Berg (David Kross) meets 36-year-old tram operator Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) who calls him "kid." Michael deeply falls in love with Hanna. He enthusiastically reads books for Hanna each time they meet because that's what Hanna enjoys. One day, Hanna suddenly disappears, leaving Michael heartbroken.
Years later, Michael sees Hanna again and discovers her secrets that continue to change his life into his adulthood as a law professor (Ralph Fiennes).
Michael Berg's experience is not necessarily typical for a boy born after the the World War II, but it perfectly reflects the German word "Vergangenheitsbewältigung"—struggle to come to terms with the past. New generations have to cope with the guilt about Germany's past and what their parents and grandparents have done during the Holocaust.
Despite the complex and heavy subject matter, the film is quite entertaining and sometimes even erotic. The innocent David Kross replaces Leonardo DiCaprio and becomes Kate Winslet's new passionate lover. The impeccable chemistry between them straightly jumps out of the screen.
With an engrossing story, beautiful cinematography, terrific performances, and delicate direction, this film is very likely to become a front runner in the upcoming Oscar race. If the film wins an Oscar, not only the award will be a recognition to the film's remarkable achievement, it will also be a tribute to film's producers Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, both passed away this year before the film's completion.