The Book ThiefCultureCinemaMovie reviews
What is it about watching dramatisations of world conflicts that audiences enjoy? World War II and all of its horrors have been played out time and again in films, television and even on stage, and yet the impact never lessens.
Based on the novel by Markus Zusak, The Book Thief is a tale of innocence within Nazi Germany, a story lifting purity out of the depths of inhumanity. Liesel (Sophie Nlisse) is the embodiment of virtue: a child caught up in the wrong side of a war she cannot understand. After tragic circumstances deliver Liesel to the arms of Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush, The Pirates of the Caribbean) and his wife Rosa (Emily Watson, War Horse), the world of this young girl is turned upside down.
Spirited Liesel transforms the lives of all those who surround her. Along with new found friend Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch), Liesel embarks on adventures that rival those of even the most intrepid explorers. Forever defying the suffocating oppression of the Führer’s soldiers, The Book Thief depicts the tension and fear that German citizens felt during Hitler’s rule.
Director Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) succeeds at offering a sympathetic look at the lives of peaceful Germans during the 1940s. The film’s cinematography is striking: iconic shots of book-burning bring to life the sincerity of the times, and the harsh weather conditions highlight the haves against have-nots.
Nlisse and Liersch are both superb, believable actors. Their characters both deal with complex issues such as loss, suffering and conscription, and they are both plausible. Teamed with Rush and Watson (both of whom have nailed the German intonation), the casting is spot on.
The film’s one and only downfall is in its slight tentativeness towards some of the Nazi inflicted terrors, but given that this movie has been rated 12A, it is no wonder that any violence is implied and not shown. There is also the questionable narration by Death (Roger Allam, The Woman in Black) over parts of the film. This is unnecessary at best, and totally misplaced at worst.
However, films about valour will always strike well in the hearts of audiences and The Book Thief is no exception – a genuine tear jerker.
The Book Thief is released nationwide on 31st January 2014.
Watch the trailer for The Book Thief here: