From the moment that the Tween and I first saw the advertisement for this movie on television we decided that we wanted to see it. Rated PG, I knew that it would be okay for us to watch as a family. Yesterday afternoon, we headed off to the theatre (with a quick stop at Spotlight beforehand so I could get that ecru cotton I needed 😉 ) and then we settled into our seats with a large box of popcorn and a bottle of water between us.
Having never read the book, I had no idea what to expect. Now that I have seen the movie, I wish to read the book. 🙂
I had prior knowledge that the movie (and the book) were narrated by Death. Having this knowledge allowed me to make sense of a lot of the movie as although there are references throughout that would lead the viewer to possibly identify Death as the narrator, they were subtle. I had to tell the Tween afterwards who the narrator was when she asked me. As I was already quite upset on the day that I watched this, the tears flowed freely throughout the movie. I cried at the obvious sad parts and also at the ignorance and ‘sheeple’ mentality that prevailed at this time in history.
For those that are unaware, the story follows Leisel (Emily Watson) a young girl given up for adoption by a mother who is running from Hitler. Leisel (grieving the loss of her mother and brother) suddenly finds herself thrust into the home of Rosa and Hans (Sophie Nelisse and Geoffrey Rush). It takes a little time for Leisel to warm to Rosa (and vice versa) however her new Papa (Hans) instantly makes her comfortable in her new home and teaches her to read from the book she found laying in the snow prior to arriving in his home. Leisel develops a love for books – something that is forbidden in the reign of Nazi Germany.
I found the movie an interesting commentary on life and the fear that some have as to the power of knowledge contained within books. I was scared as I watched young children sing songs about hating others as part of their schooling and watched the mob mentality reign supreme the night that the books were burned. Whilst the movie offered some social commentary and fleeting acknowledgements to what else was occurring (e.g. the invasion of Russia and the rounding up of the Jews) at the time of the war, the movie was mostly themed around childhood friendships, loss of innocence, keeping secrets and family values. It also showed how in the time of war, those who are bullies find themselves elevated in their sense of power and belief in their own importance.
Both of Leisel’s friends – Rudy (a young blonde haired, blue eyed German boy) and Max (a raven haired, dark eyed Jewish man) teach her about life. They teach her that it’s okay to trust and be yourself. They teach her that the written word is something to be revered and not frightened of. I loved that Leisel transformed the walls of the basement (with encouragement from her Papa) into a dictionary of new words that she had learned through reading books.
Leisel becomes the ‘book thief’ although she asserts that she doesn’t steal – she only borrows 😉
The characters in the movie grow in your heart and I developed an affection and affinity with them. I admired Rosa for her strength of character and deep seated love for her family. I admired Hans (and not just because it’s Geoffrey Rush) for his warmth of heart, his spirit and values. I love Rudy for his boyish charm and cheeky sense of humour and although Max was brooding, he was warm and grounded and I truly loved how he turned something questionable (a copy of Mein Kampf) into a thing of promise for Leisel. Leisel herself is warm, inquisitive and has a strength of character that is admirable.
There were many parts of the movie that the Tween did not understand however when I asked her afterwards what particular part it was so I could help her, she could not recall exactly what they were. Maybe in reading the book, she may find the answers to those questions.
There was also a part of me watching the film and thinking “I’d love to have pillow shams like those” or “Those boots are really cool”. Does that make me strange? 😉