The Reader

A movie review from Movie Man Mike

The Reader (B).

*** Caution *** may contain spoilers ***

What is it about Holocaust movies that make them so successful? In recent years, we’ve seen a spate of movies about this subject. The Reader is a nice addition to the genre, although the story itself left me wondering quite a bit about the characters’ motivations. The story takes place primarily in two time periods, both after the fall of Nazi Germany. Hanna Schmitz, played by Kate Winslet (Divergent), is working as a ticket taker on a cable car. She meets then 15-year-old Michael Berg. They have an affair, fall in love, and after 3 months, she abruptly leaves him. Now jump ahead a few years when Berg is now in law school taking a special lecture class. The class attends the trial of several Nazi death camp workers, one of whom turns out to be Hanna Schmitz. Berg has information that may help her case, but he is conflicted when he learns of the atrocities she has committed. I could not fully comprehend from watching the movie why he reacts the way he does, but what I also had trouble comprehending was when we see the adult Berg, played by Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), we see that Berg’s experiences with Schmitz apparently so deeply affected him that he appeared to have obsessed on her for most of his adult life. Why? And we are left wondering throughout about Schmitz’s upbringing and why she took many of the actions she did take, including her final actions. I don’t want to spoil too much of this story for movie-goers because it’s well worth seeing for the wonderful acting and compelling story-line, but I was left with quite a few questions when it was over and I felt a little unfulfilled.

The Reader

A new review from The Movie Snob

The Reader (B+). This movie kind of shook me up; it definitely held my attention from beginning to end. Although I had heard a fair amount about the plot before it saw it, I will endeavor not to commit any spoilers in my review, other than to say that the Holocaust is involved. The “present” is 1995, and in that time frame Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardener) plays the main character, an emotionally constricted German lawyer named Michael Berg. But most of the movie is told in flashback. The first flashback is to 1958, when Michael is a fresh-faced 16-year-old lad who gets involved in a torrid affair with Hannah Schmitz, a much older woman played by Kate Winslet (Titanic). Although the affair is brief, Michael is deeply affected. Years later, when he is a law student, Michael’s path crosses Hannah’s again. That’s about all I can say without risking what might be considered spoilers. I’ll just add that as the movie unfolds, I was startled and confused by some of the things the characters did; they seemed to act far differently than I would have. But I’ve read a few other reviews that had theories about their motivations that sort of make sense to me. I don’t think this movie is really best-picture caliber, but it was undeniably absorbing.