Do you ever get films where you’re not really sure you think of it? I mean on the face of it “The Book Thief” is a straightforward story about a young girl Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), fostered into a German family just before the outbreak of World War II. As she gets accustomed to her new family of Hans & Rosa (Geoffrey Rush & Emily Watson), she learns to read and adapt to her new life.
But when the family take in Max (Ben Schnetzer), the son of Hans’s dead WWI friend, Liesel world starts to open up as she rehabilitates this strange new man. There’s the threat of the Third Reich discovering Max, as well as the ongoing war. You can sort of imagine the story already, and the trailer leads you through most of it.
A bunch of stuff happens – it’s not essentially going anywhere in particular, but it’s still immersive, and showed me a side to the war that I knew a bit about, but have rarely seen in films, i.e. Germany during the war. Not as the baddies as such, just as a nation at war much like any other would be, with the occasional Nazi firebrand reminding us of the world they are living in. Swastikas aplenty and fairly blunt allusions to what Third Reich are doing with certain demographics.
I felt I didn’t enjoy the film as much as I could have, mainly because I was constantly braced for something horrible to happen and shatter this little family’s world. The odd thing is that the story could have easily concluded without it, as strange as an ending that would have been. If anything the last 10 minutes hits like a blizzard of eventful moments that left me wondering what just happened.
Death is the narrator too, did I mention that? He only bookends the film, but it’s a curious addition to a film that otherwise plays it fairly straight. But this is a book adaptation, and from what I can see on Wikipedia it keeps fairly true to the book. Death is part of the story, so why not give him a speaking part?
Anyway, it was beautifully filmed, some gorgeous old buildings in there, it didn’t feel like some movie set. The cast were all well-painted and rightly received an even scattering of award nominations, particularly young beautiful Sophie. She was really amazing, and a million miles from the hammy child actors I half-expected.
So yeah, the trailer tells you what you need to make your decision about seeing this, but I’m curious to know what you make of it if you go.