Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Book Thief

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some violence and intense depiction of thematic material
Profanity:Ugly anti-Semitic language
Nudity/Sex:Kiss
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:Depiction of WWII violence including references to the Holocaust and concentration camps, many characters injured and killed including children
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:November 15, 2013
DVD Release Date:March 11, 2014

The title character in “The Book Thief” is Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), a little girl in pre-WWII Germany.  We first see her on a train with her mother and dying younger brother.  The children were both going to be delivered to foster parents but Liesel and her mother stop along the way to bury her brother.  As the gravedigger leans over, a book falls out of his pocket.  Liesel picks it up.book-thief

Her new parents are the frosty Rosa (Emily Watson) and the gentle Hans (Geoffrey Rush).  At first, Liesel is so traumatized she cannot speak.  But Hans hears her softly singing Brahms’ lullabye to herself at night and coaxes her into talking to him by playing the song on his accordion.  When he finds that she cannot read, he uses her book to teach her.  She tells him it is hers, but “it didn’t used to be.”  That was not hard to guess; it is a book about digging graves.

Liesel is befriended by a friendly classmate named Rudy (Nico Liersch), an athletic kid who wants to race like Olympic champion Jesse Owens.  Around them, the rise of the Nazi party is evident in omnipresent banners and badges.  A school choir sweetly sings an anti-Semitic song.  Hans’ skills as a house and sign painter prove useful when someone has to remove the insults painted on his Jewish neighbor’s store.  Liesel becomes a book thief again when Hitler’s birthday is celebrated with a huge book burning.  It is less a theft than a rescue, the book smouldering under her coat as she hides it from Hans.  The book is The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.

The impact of the Nazi regime literally hits home when Max (Ben Schnetzer) arrives.  Max’s father sacrificed himself to save Hans’ life in the first World War.  It is his accordion that Hans cherishes so dearly.  Hans and Rosa talk about whether they are prepared to take the risk of hiding Max, but they know they have no choice.  Max becomes very ill and as Liesel helps to nurse him back to health, they become very devoted to one another.  She “borrows” books (without asking) from the home of the wealthiest man in town to read to him.

The young Australian author Markus Zusak was inspired to write The Book Thief by a story he heard from his mother, who emigrated from Germany following World War II.  A teenage boy in her village ran to give bread to a starving man who was being herded with other Jews by Nazis delivering them to a concentration camp.  Both the man and the boy who tried to help him were whipped by the Nazis.  This story of the very best and worst of humanity gave him the idea of a story set in Germany during the Holocaust.

Addressing the Holocaust through fiction is a daunting challenge and this film does not always master it.  An uncertain sense of its audience makes it feel off at times, too simplistic for adults and too disturbing for young audiences.  An episodic structure seems meandering and unfocused.  Most problematically, the choice of Death as a narrator works better on paper than on film.  But Rush’s performance and some touching moments make this what is perhaps the best we can hope for in grappling with the incomprehensible — a part of a conversation, even a conversation about what does not work, that keeps us striving to honor the memory of those who suffered and to strengthen our resolve once again to conquor the fear and ignorance that caused it.

Parents should know that this film is set during the Nazi atrocities of WWII Germany.  There are many sad deaths and references to the Holocaust, racist and anti-Semitic comments, fighting, and some war-time violence.

Family discussion:  Is Liesel a thief?  Why did she read to Max when he was ill?

If you like this, try: the book, “The Story of Anne Frank,” and “The Devil’s Arithmetic”

 



Previous Posts

Three Views on the Challenges Women Face in the Film Industry
It is wonderful that directors like Ava DuVernay, Angelina Jolie, and Gina Prince-Bythewood gave us superb films in 2014.  But it is an indicator of the challenges still faced by women filmmakers that none of them was nominated for a major directing award. The Alliance of Women Film Journalists

posted 3:38:46pm Jan. 31, 2015 | read full post »

Snickers Wins the Super Bowl!
The real competition at the Super Bowl is for the commercials, right? This Snickers ad is a hoot. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rqbomTIWCZ8?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:02am Jan. 31, 2015 | read full post »

How Did Ca Plane Pour Moi End Up in So Many Movies?
How did a 1977 song in French by the Belgian singer Plastic Bertrand become a go-to for 21st century American movie soundtracks, from big studio films to quirky indies? "Ça Plane Pour Moi" has appeared in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" and last week's "We'll Never Have Paris," from

posted 3:40:03pm Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »

The Kitten Bowl 2015: You Can Win A Set of Kitten Cards
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/5sO4NoaF89Y?rel=0" frameborder="0"] The most-anticipated sporting event of the weekend -- in some circles anyway, is this year's Kitten Bowl, Su-Purr Sunday, February 1 (12/11c) only on Hallmark Channel! [caption id="attachment_3263

posted 12:00:45pm Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Una Gran Noticia! Disney's First Latina Princess
The Disney princesses have their first Latina member! Princess Elena of Avalor will make her debut in the Disney Channel series "Sofia the First" before starring in her own series on the Disney channel.

posted 9:19:37am Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.