The Reader as an adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s novel is one of the touching love stories associated with Germany’s historic fate. Born in 1995, the novel Reader (Der Vorleser) becomes a phenomenon of German literature shock when it comes to a sensitive issue – Nazi crimes during World War II. The image of concentration camps is once again mentioned as a proof of undeniable crime in human history. Soon after, the book was widely disseminated with seven million copies and translated into 38 different languages worldwide.
13 years later, the director Stephen Daldry and Weinstein decided to bring this novel to the big screen in a quite risky project. The film debuted received many controversial reactions from critics. Gabrielle Burton – a famous screenwriter said that Kate Winslet used a sexual body and a good role to “cover up the immorality” of Hanna Schmitz’s character. There is another opinion that the film is only intended to satisfy the sentiments of many Germans under the brutalistic Hitler regime.
Those controversies revolve around the love story between Michael Berg – a 15-year-old high school boy and Hanna Schmitz – a woman 21 years older than him set in the 1960s in Germany. The two met once Michael was on his way home from school, getting rained and vomiting on the side of the road. Hanna takes him home and from there the two begin a strange relationship. They find each other more often in Hanna’s old attic home for a quasi-fixed ritual: bathing – reading – making love.
That relationship didn’t last long until one day Hanna suddenly disappeared. It took many years before Michael met her again, but under an ironic circumstance. He had become a law school student then and she was a defendant in the trial of murderers of the Holocaust genocide. The mysteries behind the woman he loves every year are gradually revealed. Hanna is a representative of the killing apparatus under the brutal Hitler regime that survives while Michael is a representative of today’s generation, growing up in peacetime and reviewing the sinful past of the previous generation.
Confronted with her personal past at the same time – a supportive, sheltered woman of her youth and her nation’s past – a murderer in the Holocaust, Michael could do nothing more than silent, helplessly looking at Hanna points to his historic judgment. Since then, he could not escape his torment when thinking about the woman he once loved and was indebted to that day.
In the series of topics about the Holocaust of the Holocaust in World War II, there are many films that have marked the audience’s hearts such as Schindler’s List (1993), Life is Beautiful (1997), The Pianist. (2002)… However, if most of the previous films were primarily denouncing Nazi crimes, The reader gives us a new perspective. The film is the voice of the Germans who went through the war and became criminals of peacetime judgment.
The fateful reunion between Michael and Hanna is not only the reunion of two lovers after years apart, but also a metaphor for the “confrontation” between two generations bearing different fate of history. Michael knew that Hanna had to accept responsibility for a crime not only her cause, but he also did not speak up on her side. His embarrassed and embarrassed attitude is partly the attitude of guilt with his different relationship many years ago, but on the other hand is the evasive and denial attitude of the current generation about the crimes committed by his ancestors.
The film raises great questions about the relationship between the present and the past, and between individuals and communities through an unruly love story spanning decades in Germany. However, above all, leaving the most touching impression in the hearts of viewers is still a love that transcends all boundaries of age, social status and time of Hanna and Michael.
They came together initially by desires, curiosity about the body, but stayed together with love and sharing. Hanna taught Michael sex as a basic skill to grow with the experience of one person. Michael, on the other hand, brings books, stories and fills the world of Hanna’s everlasting but long absent soul.
Later, when he learned of Hanna’s secret, Michael still did not forget her passion for books and continued to patiently reread each old story, record it and send it to her in prison. The despair in Hanna’s later wilting years seems to be fueled again by tapes filled with memories. She did something extraordinary, but it all seemed too late at the last minute of her life.
Hanna’s first shaky letters to Michael went unanswered. Michael still did not have the courage to accept the old woman until the end of his life, although he never stopped haunting and indebted to her. Hanna also finds herself not brave enough to return to the community that once accused her.
That different love story could not be so sad, the life of that unhappy woman could not have been so sad if it hadn’t been for Kate Winslet’s excellent acting. Capital attracted the audience in the image of a beautiful noble lady from Titanic to Finding Neverland, this role marked a bold breakthrough of “British rose”. Not only transforming in the image of a simple, dirty woman in everyday life, Kate Winslet also surprised the audience with the daring nude scenes while having sex in the movie.
One of the most emotional scenes is Michael and Hanna’s final reunion in prison to prepare for his return. All the anticipation, the anticipation and the hope were shining and then quickly disappeared in Hanna’s hazy, wilted gaze. The cold, indifferent like a relative responsible for picking up a prisoner from Michael’s prison after many years is the harshest death sentence for Hanna. She understood better than anyone that there was nowhere to go back out of town.
This is also the role that gives Kate Winslet an Oscar. Rose’s sensual beauty once again overwhelmed the audience even though she was over 30 years old. It is because of those hot, sensitive scenes that the film has to delay the release schedule until after the 18th birthday of David Kross (as young Michael) to avoid the inconvenience of censorship.
With a moderated storytelling, a tangled structure of present and a smooth, rhythmic past, Stephen Daldry gave the masterpiece of German literature yet another life on film. More than a sad and desperate love story, The reader lives in the hearts of the audience today thanks to the humanistic messages about each individual’s fate before history and in the community it refers to.
Although there is a somewhat spread film circuit, many acting parts are still “acting”, the makeup of Hanna’s character at an old age is not really convincing or criticized for having “too many nude scenes” but The Reader is a delightful experience for those who love a director’s deep films without fear of discovering conflicting lost hearts.
Not stopping at the character’s weaknesses, the film sets a straightforward look at the dark side of morality: Is it possible to accept forgiveness for the terrible sins inflicted by someone I love? Is there a moral principle that requires people to intervene to help someone else when they refuse to help themselves? Why is it not considered for a 36-year-old woman to seduce a 15-year-old boy in this matter?
The emotional relationship between Hanna and Michael is also not critical, as Daldry simply exposes the event as it actually happens to lead to more important events. More impressive is the justification for Hanna’s role in the Nazi apparatus. Daldry and Hare respect not interfering with Schlink’s original style and construction and portrayal of character.