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I Bet You Didn't See... The Book Thief


I love this film so much. I also love the book as well. They are both so well written and made. I found it to be a rare case where the film didn't lose any of the power the book has. I felt they reflect each other very well. There may have been things cut, but they kept the essence and flavour of the story, while adapting brilliantly to the limitations of the screen.

The story of The Book Thief follows Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse), a German girl who is left in the care of Rosa (Emily Watson) and Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush). We follow Liesel through the few years within the Second World War, and how her life is affected by the war. The film is book-ended by Death narrating his fascination with the life of Liesel - and the final scene is worth the wait.

Geoffrey Rush as Hans Hubermann

However, she learns about the world around her through Hans Hubermann teaching her to read and write. This acts as the positive in her life. She becomes engrossed and obsessed with reading and writing, which she discovers through finding a burned book from a Nazi book burning. Protected by Hans, she is told how dangerous it is to defy the authorities, but he vows to look after her and teach her in secret.

Ben Schnetzer as a fleeing Jew, Max Vandenburg

She shares her new found love with Max Vandenburg (Ben Schnetzer), the son of Jewish friend of Hans, who is escaping from the fatal Kristallnacht raids. Protected in the basement of the Hubermann's small, dark house, Max encourages Liesel to read and escape into her books and words. She uses this to help him through his long days of isolation from the daylight.

What I love most about this film, is the physical and emotion textures of the film. I'll be honest, the accents aren't the best. Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch) - one of the Hubermann's sons - is not particularly good and you do have to ignore the fact they are speaking in English and all the spelling lessons are in English, but that is NOT THE POINT! Sorry - I had a moment!

Emily Watson as Rosa Hubermann - a stunning performance.

The physical textures are beautiful. You gain an intimate sense of poverty within the Hubermann household and on the street, but there is a care taken to preserve what the family have. Everything is reused over and over again, and is warn down over time. This is very accurate as it was widely known that everyone had to reuse and recycle.

The emotional textures are just as powerful as well. Emily Watson plays Rosa Hubermann as the harsh local washerwoman who doesn't tolerate trouble in any way. She has to keep these pretenses, even though her affections towards Liesel soften and warm. Geoffrey Rush's caring, soft-hearted Hans is such a stark contrast, taking Liesel into his home like she was his own from the moment they meet. Watson, Rush and Nélisse developed a fantastic chemistry throughout the film and their character development is so engrossing. This also makes the ending all the more powerful.

Sophie Nélisse as Liesel Meminger, reading to Max

I also really enjoyed the slightly off-centred camera shots, as seen in the frames used above. You get a sense of the emptiness the war has left in the household, as do the different twists and turns the film takes. It makes you look around the scene for more that just what is happening with the actors.

It's a beautiful and emotional film, with some fun moments cutting through that captures the childhood innocence that can be seen in times of war. Quite poignant really, considering what is going on in the world.

Definitely a "must see" for film lovers everywhere, especially for lovers of what you might call "human" films. Also, read the book!

Write. In my religion we're taught that every living thing, every leaf, every bird, is only alive because it contains the secret word for life. That's the only difference between us and a lump of clay. A word. Words are life, Liesel. - Max Vandenburg

Directed by: Brian Percival

Written by: Michael Petroni

Based on: "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse

Released: October 3rd, 2013

My Rating: 8/10

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