Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Book Thief.

My opening film at 2014’s Glasgow Film Festival was the Downton Abbey director Brian Percival's The Book Thief (2013). Adapted by Michael Petroni from a best selling novel by Australian author Markus Zusak published in 2005. Narrated by Death and set in Germany during World War 2 it describes 12 year old Liesel Meminger's relationship with her working class foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, after her younger brother dies and her mother has to go into hiding because of her communist beliefs. Liesel also forms a relationship with Rudy Steiner a young blond German boy eight months her senior who falls in love with her the moment they meet. But when Hans decides to repay an old debt by sheltering a young Jew putting the whole family in danger. Meanwhile Liesel's growing love of books leads her to form a relationship with the local Burgomasters wife.
A family's safety is put at risk....

....when they hide a young jewish boy in their basement.

The film starts with The Narrator reminding us that 'death is inevitable' but in this observers opinion this rather melodramatic voice over by the English stage actor Roger Allam, who has also appeared in three Ken Loach films including 2012 The Angels Share, is not required because of its daft above the clouds fairy tale approach which does tend to reverberate throughout the movie treating the Nazi persecution of the Jews in a particularly handed fashion. My other problems with Percival's film is that it comes across as very bookish, giving a chapter orientated approach to the story telling, and the films strange combination of English and German accents and on screen subtitles. Bearing in mind that the complete story was shot and filmed in Germany it would have been better to have German actors and therefore subtitles. But let's not take anything away from the cast. Sophie Nelisse plays Liesel, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson excel as her foster parents with Ben Schnetzer the Jewish refugee Max and Nico Liersch as Rudy. Similar to the Boy in Striped Pyjamas (2008) and Lore (2012) the story is related from a child's prospective.

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