Author: Bernhard Schlink

Book + Movie Review – The Reader

Posted June 29, 2012 by Bonnie in Adult, Book + Movie Reviews, Book Reviews, Read in 2012 / 1 Comment

Both book and movie discussed in detail so be aware of spoilers!

’I’m not frightened. I’m not frightened of anything. The more I suffer, the more I love. Danger will only increase my love. It will sharpen it, forgive its vice. I will be the only angel you need. You will leave life even more beautiful than you entered it. Heaven will take you back and look at you and say: Only one thing can make a soul complete and that thing is love.’

It’s rare that I ever decide to read the book after having already watched the movie. After watching ‘The Reader’ and loving it I did feel that the book would do a much better job at conveying the emotions (as is normal with books vs. movies) and I so wanted to experience that.

Compared to the book, I felt the movie really lacked in sufficiently presenting the true emotion behind Michael’s actions. What was disconcerting to me at first was when Michael was first introduced he seemed to me like a silly boy with a crush (even though yes, he was only 15) and their relationship was not easily understandable in the least. Kate Winslet won an Academy Award for her role in this movie, and for good reason. She did an absolutely amazing job at playing the part of Hanna Schmitz, a shadowy and secretive woman. She was dynamic and incredible but also strange; you never truly understand her actions until all is revealed. And once revealed, well, my heart broke for her.

Michael and Hanna’s relationship on film and on print was fiery and despite their taboo relationship was still full of passion. The fact that their relationship was taboo was never really addressed in either the book or movie. Of course they kept their relationship secret but they never went to great lengths in order to keep it that way. When they went on vacation together Michael referenced the fact that he could say she was his mother but was still unable to stop himself form kissing her on the lips in the full light of day. It could be interpreted either as the thrill of doing something he knows is wrong/taboo but I think it was more the fact that he was so incredibly happy to be with her that he was willing to take any chance. One scene in particular I found to be quite ironic was where Michael was reading to her and it was a very detailed sex scene. She stops him and says, “This is disgusting. Where did you get this?” Michael responds, “Borrowed it from someone at school.” Hanna says, “Well, you should be ashamed.”

A few scenes in particular were missing from the movie that I felt were vital elements of the story as a whole. For one, the philosophical conversation between Michael and his father. It was clear he was dealing with some heavy decisions throughout the entirety of the trial but it went deeper than it was portrayed on film. In the book when he was struggling to decide whether or not to come forward about Hanna’s illiteracy his father said to him:

“…I see absolutely no justification for setting other peoples views of what is good for them above their own ideas of what is good for themselves.”

The conversation instead occurred between him and his teacher, but I don’t feel it had the needed effect that the conversation with his father caused in the book.

The single most vital scene that I felt was missing in the movie was the scene at the pool when he saw Hanna for the last time. That last encounter set in motion the guilt that would haunt him for the rest of his life. The fact that he failed to acknowledge her in front of his friends was the whole reason he thought she had left and that he had drove her away by his inaction. There were a few other various details that were changed in the movie (like the ending) but nonetheless, I felt it was a remarkable book to movie portrayal. I felt that both the book and movie were brilliantly done and is one of the few instances where both can be appreciated in their own regards.

Did you watch the movie or read the book? What did you think? Let me know!