There's very little I need to say about "The Reader," other than I spent the last half hour bawling my eyes out during it.
I can't believe this movie got so much kick back, so much derision! This movie is amazing! I will agree that it's a quiet, underlying message that isn't fully fleshed--ANYTHING dealing with the Holocaust is going to carry weight, and this one has the Holocaust and Auschwitz lurking nearby in its shadows.
But there is no way that anyone can create a solid argument that this movie is about the Holocaust.
Let's take a look at what happens. There's a young-ish German woman, living alone. She cannot read. She is illiterate, and if truth be told, she's relatively stupid. She creates a life out of working, out of living, out of doing what she is told.
Enter into her life a young boy, ill. She helps him, takes him home, and three months later, cured, he returns to thank her.
She is alone. He is curious. And he catches a glimpse of her in all her nekkkkkid post WWII glory. An affair begins.
It's fun! It lasts for a summer, and throughout it, she repeatedly asks him again and again and again to read to her. He does. They begin to fall in love. Oh, such problems! Kate Winslet's Hanna knows she should not be the focus of attention in a young boy's life; he has to grow up, hasn't he?
So she leaves. She takes a new job, and disappears.
Years go by.
The young boy is now in law school, and turns up with his class at some post WWII trials where guards at Auschwitz are being tried.
And here...his heart breaks.
His Hanna, his love, the great love of his young life, is on trial. She hasn't changed much. She is still simple, still solemn, still purposeful. Despite the aftermath of revelation that comes with EVERYTHING DEALING WITH THE HOLOCAUST, Hanna has seemingly remained naive about the realities regarding the Holocaust. Whereas her fellow mates on trial deny and redirect the accusations against them, Hanna answers questions about her action, and the actions of all, very simply.
This, of course, gets her in trouble. She is accused of being in charge, leading the others to the horrible atrocities of WWII.
She denies it. The court calls for a sample of her handwriting, and immediately, shamefully, she admits to their accusations, falsely. Her young lover, the young man watching the trials from above, begins to sob. He knows Hanna is innocent, knows she is entirely illiterate, incapable even of making a legible mark regarding her own name. And here, not out of horror or humiliation of her actions, but out of shame, in her own simple way, shame of being illiterate, she prefers to serve the rest of her life in prison than own up to her lack of education.
He keeps her secret.
And I begin to bawl!
Kate Winslet is Hanna. Gorgeous, passionate, quiet, and full of such incredible depth. I am always and forever floored by her grace and by her glamour. An amazing actress. She hits the mark, continuously throughout the film, acting, reacting, questioning, deciding her way throughout the story. In her love affair, she is vulnerable and troubled, delighted, and alive, for perhaps the first time, in the life of a simple German Woman. On trial, she is dim, unaware, deeply disturbed, and quietly aware of the depth of her actions. She has not learned anything she did not already know throughout her life, but she is a good woman, very aware, and very repentent.
Her repentance is not what causes her to confess her crimes. It was her job, she says, should she have not signed up at Siemens?
Winslet is most amazing when she is listening to the events around her, a good marker of a fantastic actress. She reveals such emotion, and is undeniably incredible when her atmosphere affects her.
The filming of the movie is breathtaking. Romantic, purposeful, meaningful.
Again, spoken in the present about the past, Ralph Fiennes is the leader in delivering the message of the past informing the present. He continuously struggles with the changing times, continuously looking to make sense of them, for himself, and for Hanna.
Repeatedly, this film smacks of a message few have commented on: Silence has Consequences. Watch the movie, apply that to every level of storytelling, and see what you find.