Monday, July 14, 2014

Movie Monday: The Book Thief

The Book Thief
When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.

Yikes. It has been four months since the last Movie Monday. Their absence has come as a direct result of my graduate studies. I just don't have time for everything. However, it's not like I gave up movies entirely. Kevin and I have still been enjoying more than our fair share.

I read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak near the end of 2012. At that point, it was five years old, but probably at the peak of its popularity. Although, that level has surely spiked again since the release of the film.

I enjoyed the book, especially appreciating a WWII story from a German citizen perspective. Looking back, I had forgotten how long the book was (nearly 600 pages). I'm surprised they were able to work it down into a two-hour movie. And a good movie, at that.

It is a good movie. If you haven't seen it already, I definitely encourage you to rent it, whether you have read the book or not. Of course, you'll enjoy it much more if you have read the book (duh, always), but it is beautiful as a stand alone piece as well. Kevin really enjoyed it and we he did not read the book. 

The first triumph of the film is the wonderful casting. Newcomer Sophie NĂ©lisse is simply marvelous as Liesel. I have a feeling we will see a lot more of her in the future, or at least I hope we will. She reminded me a bit of the character of Primrose Everdeen. Of course, we have yet to see most of Primrose's role in the Hunger Games movies, but so far that actress has done well also. To add to NĂ©lisse's success, Geoffrey Rush plays the role of Papa. How can anyone not love Geoffrey Rush? He is incomparable and a truly magnificent actor. He plays the role perfectly. His counterpart, Emily Watson as Mama, also brought the right tone to her role. It's a character portrayal I was concerned about, but Watson struck a great balance between harsh and soft. She makes the character easier to understand and appreciate on screen, even than she was in the book. 

Another thing I was concerned about was Death's presence as the narrator. In the book, it works beautifully and is feasible largely because of the format. The idea is much more difficult to translate into a visual medium. I worried they would do away with his role entirely. In the end, however, the screen writers handled the situation well. It still works better in print, but they worked it in smoothly.

The whole idea of Liesel being a book thief is much more central in the book. However, I actually liked the movie's approach better. Blashphemy, I know. In the book, at times, Death gets too caught up in the minutia of why each book is important. In the movie, time is limited and the books, while still playing an important role, are mostly a background piece. Words and books are still vitally important, but the specific books and words are not as key.

One thing both Kevin and I were a bit bothered by was the unrealistic ending. I mean, a bomb destroyed the street and killed a bunch of people. Maybe we're a bit too used to Band-of-Brother-type war movies, but we felt that scene was completely whitewashed. The bodies came out looking like they were asleep with no burns or wounds or anything. I do completely understand that this movie was tailored for a younger audience and they wanted to maintain their rating. Still, it bugged us.

As I said, if you haven't seen this movie yet, you have no excuse. Get out there and grab a copy. Netflix can have one to you by the weekend if you send back that indie flick you're never actually going to watch. Do it. You will be moved and maybe even cry. It will be worth it. 

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