The Reader is a complex film that grapples with an array of moral, ethical and social issues. Presented in three parts, it starts off slow with a story of the sexual conquest of a young boy by an older woman. This initial act, seems to go on for a little too long, seemingly crossing over the line into the realms of gratuity with it’s stark depictions of nudity and sex. It’s only in acts two and three that we realise that far from being gratuitous, act one was only setting up our emotions and preconceptions for the remaining parts of the film.
Act two is the power of the film, where the young boy, Michael Berg, is a law student, attending an optional series of lectures, that coincide with a war crimes trial. As part of the lectures, they attend the trials where Michael recognises one of the defendants as his seducer, the woman he fell in love with only to have her lave his life suddenly and with out warning.
Emotionally Michael is in a tailspin, as he doesn’t know what to feel, and morally he soon realises that he has knowledge that could drastically affect the outcome of the trails for his old lover, Hanna Schmitz.
The final act settles down some what, as we witness the grown up Michael dealing with the emotional baggage that he just can’t seem to let go, though despite representing a much slower pace for the story, this final act still packs a few unexpected punches along the way.
The Reader is a fascinating story that looks at where responsibility lies, what our moral compasses are really made of, and more importantly how pride can control our lives to devastating effect. Though The Reader can be classed a holocaust film for part of its subject matter, it is more about perception of right and wrong, and how we judge people than it is a statement of how evil the perpetrators were.
It’s this combined with the fantastic acting of Winslet, Fiennes and David Kross. Along with the careful direction and bleak cinematography that makes The Reader such a fascinating watch.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read
Rating: [R16] Contains Sex Scenes
Released on: August 26th, 2009
Stars: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes
Length (Minutes): 124
Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1
Supported Audio: Dolby Digital Surround 5.1
Director: Daldry, Stephen