I screened this movie as a part of a press trip sponsored by Twentieth Century Fox. My extremely enthusiastic opinion is mine alone.
In my review of The Book Thief book (linked) — a book I liked very much — the crux of my thoughts were, “The writing. It’s all about the writing.” I did manage to scrape together a bit about the plot and the characters and shared some information from my phone interview with the author Markus Zusak, but it was one of those books that just pulled me right in. The use of a creative narrative voice, plus a different angle to the Holocaust setting helped it rise above.
The movie — how was that going to work? Was the narrator Death still going to put his unique stamp on the movie? Which of the details that I loved in this long novel would be cut to make a two-hour movie? Here’s a brief look, but keep reading for my thoughts on the whole movie.
The writing is what left me searching for adequate words to write a book review, and for the movie, it’s the images, the acting, and the overall feel that is so very close to the lovely book.
The movie opens with that train chugging through the snow, taking Liesel and her mother and her brother to their new homes. It’s beautiful, and my heart quickened to see it. As I watched the scenes and listened to the dialogue, I found myself thinking, “Was that line in the movie?” and oftentimes I came away with the thought “If it wasn’t, it should have been!”
And that was probably my biggest takeaway from the movie. It was the beauty of a story. Books and words can help us escape. They also help us connect.
It’s also a coming-of-age story. Liesel and Rudy (see more about their story at 5 Minutes for Mom today) meet when they are ten years old. The movie covers about six years and a special friendship between these two.
I’m including some of the images here, because I can, and because they are wonderful. Are you following the Book Thief on Facebook? Seeing the images and graphics they post makes me happy. I remember the movie and the book and also look forward to seeing it again.
You still have time to read the book if you haven’t. I think that things like the intrusive narrator will be better understood and appreciated if you’ve read the book. You’ll “get” the movie if you haven’t, but the criticisms I have seen generally call attention to things that those who have loved the book would have been sad to see go, not only Death the narrator, but the fact that this is not a story about war. It’s a story about the life that goes on in spite of the hideous genocide that marked the country at that time.
Stay tuned for more coverage, including 5 Reasons to see The Book Thief movie and my roundtable interviews with Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, and the producer and director.
The movie opens November 15 in select markets, but isn’t coming to my hometown until Thanksgiving weekend.
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