Monday, July 20, 2009

The Reader

I just watched The Reader and I don't know what I think of it.

I wish I had enjoyed the love story more. I suspect that had I found that aspect more compelling, the rest of the movie would have fallen into place for me. But as it was, I didn't feel like I was "getting" it. I just didn't know what my reaction was supposed to be.

Kate Winslet gave another tough, impeccable and yet impenetrable performance that left me feeling perplexed.

The story is about a man who when he was fifteen had an affair with an older woman. This was in 1958/9. Then, in 1966 when he's in law school, the same woman is brought up on charges of Nazi war crimes, for her conduct as an SS guard at Auschwitz. He watches the trial but doesn't approach her. Nor does he volunteer information that would (partially) exonerate her (she was illiterate, and out of shame claimed to have written a false report that proved to be severely damaging to her in the trial). Years later, out of guilt (?) (I'm actually not sure what his motives were), he sends her tapes of himself reading aloud all the books he had read to her when they were lovers. She listens to these in prison and is inspired to finally teach herself to read. She writes him and apparently he never writes back (I didn't understand why not). When it is time for her release, she has no one and he offers to help her get a job. He visits her, nearly 40 years after their affair, and it is sad and stiff. Rather than be a charity case for him on the outside, she kills herself. She leaves her remaining money in his care to deliver to one of the surviving victims of an atrocity. After doing so, he returns to his grave and tells his daughter the story...

2 comments:

replicajewelry said...

Berg, in my opinion, did not better than anyone else. He felt ashamed to admit the relationship with Hanna, and even to visit her when she got in the prison. Hanna is so sensitive, she felt his constraint when she holded him, so everything became chinchin, not communication. She knew Berg didn’t have the courage to face her or the past.

So strong was her self-contemptuous that she could never accept the pity of the “Kid”. Her ending was not a choice, it was an ending.

Diana said...

I agree with your insight. If I had been more sensitive to her self-loathing I might have been more sympathetic to her character, or would have gotten some of the nuances of Winslet's performance.