Thursday, April 16, 2020

Review of "The Reader," DVD version

Review of

The Reader, DVD version

Five out of five stars

Love and revulsion are simultaneous emotions

 This movie begins as if it is solely a romantic tale of somewhat forbidden love, but it is much more than that. Kate Winslet stars as Hanna Schmitz, a conductor on the city tram lines. David Kross is the teenaged Michael Berg and the original location in Berlin, Germany in 1958. Michael becomes sick while walking the streets and vomits at the entrance to an apartment building. Hanna takes pity on him, cleans him up and helps him go home.

 Michael is diagnosed with scarlet fever, a very dangerous illness at the time and it takes months for him to recover. Once he is well, he revisits Hanna’s apartment with flowers in hand. One thing leads to another and they become lovers, older woman and teenage boy. The affair continues and quickly includes Michael reading to Hanna on a regular basis. He learns that Hanna is illiterate, unable to read or write even the simplest words. There are then flash forwards to an adult Michael where he recollects events in his past and tries to cope with his present. These flash forwards continue for some time.

 Young Michael enters law school and in an advanced seminar they attend the trial of some female Nazi prison camp guards. Hanna is one of the defendants, which strains Michael psychologically. Hanna is found guilty and given a life sentence. Michael is torn, because he knows that Hanna is illiterate and could not have done some of what she was accused of.

 When Hanna is in prison, Michael sends her a tape recorder and cassettes containing books he has put on tapes. Hanna treasures the material and it motivates her to learn to read and write. There is a dramatic conclusion to their relationship and an anticlimax. It is clear from the way it is played that Hanna is the love of Michael’s life, yet he cannot get past her sordid past. He struggles with his complex feelings for her, from love to revulsion at what she once was.

 This is a movie about love between a teen boy and adult woman that lasts, but in a very complex form. It is a reminder that in dark times, people do dark things, sometimes because they are forced to and other times because they consider it their duty. Michael struggles to make sense of his feelings, what Hanna did and at the end he does the right thing, but not to the results he envisioned.

No comments:

Post a Comment