The Book Thief (15)
Directed by: Brian Percival
Starring: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush & Emily Watson
Running time: 131 min
While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. Under the stairs in her home, a Jewish refugee is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.
Liesel (Nélisse) is a child who arrives at the house of Hans (Rush) and Rosa Hubermann (Watson) in Germany in 1938. A young, shy and illiterate girl, she soon makes friends with Rudy ( Nico Liersch), a young German boy in her class at school.
Liesel begins to learn and, thanks to her new Papa who teaches her how to read and write, she soon discovers that she has a thirst for books. Picking up books wherever she can, Liesel drifts away into the characters she reads in the books. But when Max (Ben Schnetzer), a Jewish friend of the family, arrives the whole household must be careful for there is danger right on their doorstep.
Liesel and Rudy, two young teenagers discover for themselves the experience of living under Nazi Germany, all the while fearful of what might lie ahead of them and fearful that one wrong word could spell disaster for not only Max, but their familys as well…
The Book Thief, based on the bestseller by Markus Zusak , is at times a touching story of young teenagers surviving in troubled war torn Germany. The acting is superb with young Sophie Nélisse performing admirably as the heroine of the piece. However, it is Geoffrey Rush’s performance that you will remember the most as he portrays the kindly father figure with ease and perfection.
Sadly though, the acting is the only highlight in this piece. The script, whilst mainly in spoken English, constantly inserts German words into the mix, resulting in a mish-mash of languages that will leave the viewer confused.
Added to this mix is the Narrator character that will certainly have audiences scratching their heads as to his identity and, more importantly, his reasoning. Indeed, this is a film where the ideas may have seemed good on paper but they just don’t transform well onto the silver screen.
The film has no foul language, nor violence (except for two scenes and the violence was used sparingly), yet the viewer is meant to sympathise with the main cast through their turbulent lives. The toned down elements of this movie – for a PG rating – suggests that the studio may have been trying to aim this at a younger audience; however, the subject matter barely scratches the surface of times.
There are many adaptions of bestselling novels that have been lovingly transposed to the silver screen, and there have been equally a number that have been rushed and left the viewer more puzzled than The Times crossword! Sadly, this is a film that perhaps the viewer is best avoiding at the cinema and instead should reach for that classic on the bookshelf.