The Book Thief
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, Ben Schnetzer, Nico Liersch, Joachim Paul Assböck, Kirsten Block
Directed by: Brian Percival
Run Time: 131 mins
Genre: Drama/ War
Opens November 15th
By Lisa Minzey of The Reel Critic.com
Hey Phoenix Film Fans! Opening this week is a film based on a book that spent over 230 weeks on the New York Best Sellers List. Set in World War II Germany, “The Book Thief” stars Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson and Sophie Nélisse. At this year’s Hollywood film Festival, Sophie Nélisse won the Spotlight Award; will she have more in her future this awards season? Read on to find out.
Narrated by Death and his observations on humanity, he comes across young Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), her mother (Heike Makatsch) and her gravely ill younger brother (Julian Lehmann) as they are traveling by train to the children’s new foster home. The boy dies along the way and is buried along the tracks. As they were leaving the grave site, Liesel picks up a book that was dropped and fails to return it to the man who just buried her brother.
Liesel travels onward to the small German village where she is to live with her new foster parents, Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa Hubermann (Emily Watson). Desperately homesick for her mother and brother, Liesel retreats within and is slowly brought out of her shell by Hans. When she arrived at the Hubermann’s home, she was illiterate, but with Hans’ patient and playful way of teaching she quickly learns and flourishes. In the village, she is befriended by a young boy Rudy (Nico Liersch) who is always in competition with her and trying to win her kisses.
Although Liesel may be slowly settling into her new life, the quaint village she now lives in is being transformed by the Nazi party, recruiting the men and children for service or attending their training schools. When the Nazis ordered the burning of books, Liesel couldn’t bear to see the destruction of all the possibilities in reading, so she steals a book from the embers. This does not go unnoticed by the Mayor’s wife who eventually recognizes her as Liesel delivers laundry to their home.
At the same time, Hans and Rosa take in a young Jewish man, Max (Ben Schnetzer), hiding him in their basement from the Nazis. Liesel is ordered never say a word to anyone about the man in their basement as it will put all of their lives in danger. Liesel tries her best to keep it secret, but with the stealing of books from the MAyor’s wife’s collection and her strange behavior about her home life, Rudy starts to ask too many questions. Will Liesel be able to keep her secret or will Rudy figure it out and expose them all?
Unique in its delivery and narration, “The Book Thief” treats the subject matter with dignity and respect for all sides involved. It provides insight into different standpoints; from a child’s understanding of events to the poor and rich German family, to the Jewish and other persecuted groups of that time as well as the duty of a soldier and the hype of propaganda. This story is beautifully told, acted and visually enticing. This film closely follows the book with the exception of a few story lines omitted probably due to runtime or some other reason. Hopefully the reason for leaving certain storylines will be on the DVD extra features. Overall, the film still tells the story of Liesel from Death’s perspective with class. Be sure to catch “The Book Thief” when it opens in theaters starting Friday November 15,2013.