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The Book Thief (movie)

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Uh, yeah, this was not the week for my hold on the film version of The Book Thief to come in. (See previous entry.) I watched it today because I wasn't sure how general interest it would be for my family. (It's rated PG-13 for its Nazi Germany theme.) It's based on the book by Markus Zusak, who I had the pleasure to hear speak at a SCBWI workshop in Munich one year. It's a hard book to read, but I think they did a nice job converting it to film.

The story: a German couple take in a little German girl whose mother can't care for her (the parents are communists and probably don't last long afterwards). The girl, Liesl, is illiterate at first, but has a book she swiped from the grave digger when her brother died on the train and was buried by the tracks. The new father, Hans Hubermann, teaches her to read with it, and gradually draws her out until she has a real family again. The mother, Rosa, takes a bit longer--she is rather sharp around the edges and has the most fantastically colorful vocabulary, besides. The next door neighbor boy, Rudy, befriends her as well, even as the other kids make fun of her for not knowing how to read. And somewhere in there, the Hubermanns take in a Jewish refugee, Max, who they hide out in the basement. The book is narrated by Death, so you know right off that most of them do not survive. It's about the horrible thing humans do to each other, and yet the truly heroic things they do in the face of adversity, as well.

The mayor makes a brief appearance in the movie, I couldn't help but be struck at how much he looks like Vladimir Putin. Argh. Why can't people just get along? Why can't they be nice to each other? Ukraine, Nigeria, even comments on internet articles. Is it so hard to leave other people's possession alone and respect their dignity and be kind?

The father in the movie, Hans, looked SO much like my Czech grandfather who I never met. Really, really striking similarities.

And I appreciated the use of German in the movie (which is mostly in English). They used German wherever they could get away with it, and a German accent whenever not, so your mind has the feel of German.

Still. I understand why my husband gets upset at seeing Nazi-era propaganda in the course of his German studies (he's a professor). I love that place. I love the people there. And the people now are very different than the ones who were present during the war. My sense is that today's Germans find racism and attacks on human dignity much more repugnant than Americans, at least if you look online. (Republican vs. Democrat, religious vs. not, race divides, etc.)

Overall, I'd say the film is well done, but the rating is accurate. Younger children who can handle made-up monsters would find this frightening (even though the violence is kept at a minimum, given the subject), plus the pace is a little slow and thoughtful. But now...now I definitely need something light and funny and completely meaningless, because I think I'm full up on my yearly quotient of sad.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
robinellen
May. 6th, 2014 10:49 pm (UTC)
I will admit I have a hard time reading about this era. I read a ton of WWII books when I was a teen (late teens), and I think I oversaturated myself. It's very frustrating to be reminded of how people are so determined to be 'us versus them.' :(
olmue
May. 7th, 2014 02:50 am (UTC)
You'd think that no one would ever want to repeat that again. And yet, horrible things happen every day (ahem, Nigeria).

Oh, yes, now I remember the other thing I was going to say about the film: IMDB says that there is only one swear word in the entire film. Um...whoa. Really?? There was one in English, but a whole ton in German. To me, who speaks German only as a second language, I know theoretically that calling someone a pig is one of the worst things you can do, but I have the gut feel of how it is in English--mildly insulting, but certainly not swearing. However, my sons who went to school in Germany understand it in the German way, and that word makes their ears feel like they're on fire. Just one of those funny things about profanity in your own language versus another one--you can never take someone else's swear words seriously.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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