The Book Thief
In 1938, young orphan Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) arrives at the home of her new foster parents, Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson). When Hans, a kindly housepainter, learns that Liesel cannot read, he teaches the child the wonders of the written language. Liesel grows to love books, even rescuing one from a Nazi bonfire. Though Liesel's new family barely scrape by, their situation becomes even more precarious when they secretly shelter a Jewish boy whose father once saved Hans' life.
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Movie Title: The Book Thief
Rating: PG-13, 2 hours 5 minutes
In a Nutshell: I had to drive past several theaters near my home to find one that carried this film…truly a hidden gem. The sobering, yet inspiring film is based on the international best-selling novel by Marcus Zusak, The Book Thief, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for 200 weeks. It introduces a provincial German town and how it experiences the close-up pains of WWII, contrasting life and death, darkness and light, hope and a haunting humanity. We rarely see WWII movies that illustrate the “other” side of the story: how German families were affected by the Nazis, the Jews who lived beside them in their neighborhoods, and the sacrifices that would be required of them all.
Liesel is exposed to her first book, ironically “The Gravedigger’s Handbook”, and becomes fascinated with reading and words. The power of words is illustrated beautifully in so many ways: Nazi propaganda posters on the town’s walls, name-calling by school bullies and Mama, Liesel’s storytelling in the bomb shelter, the eery words narrated by Death, etc. The film is guided by popular “Downton Abbey” director Brian Percival.
Uplifting theme: There were actually so many positive messages around every corner that I had a hard time writing them all down in the dark theater. This movie should have your family discussing many ideas for a long time. (See list below in the parent section.)
Things I liked:
I’m an author of 17 books, so you KNOW I liked this movie! There were so many things I enjoyed, such as the picturesque European streets, the visual contrasts between the stark white snow and the black shoes that crunched on it, the playful use of words and images, and the powerful acting. The lovely Sophie Nelisse (Liesel) was believable and adorable. Geoffrey Rush (Hans) was a sweet foster papa you wanted to spend more time with, and Nico Liersch (Rudy) was a dear best friend who had the looks that Hitler would kill for…and did. Roger Allam narrated the film as a character that is unclear until the end. I loved the anticipation as I waited for his character to be revealed.
The talented Emily Watson (Rosa) played a stern German woman who Liesel describes as being a thunderstorm, but who Death knew had a big heart. I loved the image of her falling asleep with Papa’s accordion. My German grandmother died when I was just a little girl, so I regret that I never got to know her well. She seemed to me a typical austere German matriarch, but my father adored her and I knew there was more to her than I understood. “Mama” in the movie was this kind of multi-layered woman.
* “A person is only as good as his word.” - Papa
* “Better that we leave the pain behind, than ever forget the music.” - Hans
* “I am haunted by humans.” - Death
* “You’ll meet me soon enough.” - Death
* “A mother never gives up on her child.” – Elsa
* “Memory is the scribe of the soul.” (Aristotle) quoted by Max
Things I didn’t like: The children don’t seem to age during the 5 year period. I know that’s hard to do in a film, but still…I had my tissues ready and was prepared to cry, but I never did. Perhaps it was all that German stoicism that prevented me from shedding a tear.
• Liesel asks “What’s an accountant?” Papa answers “Something we will never need.”
• “He’s the dumbest kid in school, but he shaves.” – Rudy
• “It’s the best thing I ever threw up.” -
• “Every mother loves her child, even Hitler’s” – Max
• “Words are life.” – Max
Things to look for:
• Wintered old vines growing all over the schoolhouse facade
• Be sure to read the subtitles for song the school children sing
• I’ve always fantasized about having a library like Elsa’s that is so large you need a ladder to reach the books on the top shelves, complete with cozy chairs, Tiffany lamps and a window to look out and see the world in a new way
• Liesel appropriately reads “The Invisible Man” to Max, the Jewish boy her family hides in their basement
• German Christmas tree with candles on it
Helpful German words to know as you watch the movie or read the book:
auf wiedersehen - goodbye
bahnhof - train station
dreckiges - dirty
Frau - Miss
Führer - leader
gesindel - vermin" or lowlife
gut - good
guten morgen - good morning
herr - Mr
ja - yes
Juden - Jews
Nein - no
saumensch - pig (used as an insult)
und - and
Tips for parents: While two of the stars are children, it’s not really a film that will hold the attention of young children. Mature, older children may find it interesting, but the theme is dark and requires some understanding of the dangers of being a Jew in WWII Germany. There are some scenes with dead bodies, although they are mostly pale, not covered in blood. There is some violence, bullying, and profanity in German.
The movie presents great topics to discuss with pre-teen children and older ones, such as
• Should censorship of books be allowed or not?
• What do you consider to be “intellectual dirt?”
• If your eyes could speak, what would they say?
• Liesel was a book thief. How was Hitler one as well?
• Which emotion is the most powerful: love, fear, or hope?
I would love to hear what YOU thought about the book or film!
Visit me at MovieReviewMaven.blogspot.comJanuary 4th, 2014 · Details4 Thanks ·
The Book Thief puts on a phenomenal display of humanity and provides the audience with a roller coaster of emotions. You'll be appalled at Hitler and the Germans under his rule, you'll see that most of them were great people who didn't agree with Hitler's motives, you'll laugh frequently and may even shed some tears.
This movie gives you something to look forward to. It values the power behind expressing yourself through the written word and it values relationships between family, friends, and neighbors. The character development is fantastic and the acting is superb! This is one of the top five movies of 2013!!
For parents to know:
There are mature themes of dictatorship and some violence showing Jews being persecuted by Nazi soldiers. There is bullying among children. Very little profanity in English (German words could have been offensive, I don't know). Two instances of religious profanities.November 20th, 2013 · Details4 Thanks ·
For a movie set in Germany during the Holocaust, The Book Thief is strikingly glossy, with images that look like a holiday greeting card.
While the performances can't be faulted, the film lacks the emotional resonance of the best-selling novel by Marcus Zusak. With superficial sleekness, it flattens the intricate story to excessive simplicity... See Full ReviewNovember 21st, 2013 · Details2 Thanks ·
A refreshing, original, and poignant story set in WWII Germany. The pace is slow, and there are no 'high action' points, so you might want to skip The Book Thief if you require explosions or car chases. In fact, my initial impression at the end of the movie was that it was too slow. However, after processing it and sleeping on it, I came to the conclusion that it wasn't the pacing that was too slow, but myself who had been too anxious to just sit and enjoy a high quality film. So, my advice to persons going to see this movie ( and everyone should ) is to relax and enjoy the unique perspective through which the story is told and pay attention to the various subtleties because the film isn't going to hit you over the head with its message.December 16th, 2013 · Details1 Thank ·
The Book Thief has wonderful dramatic performances and is beautifully shot. What it doesn’t have is a driving storyline. The dangers of living in a Nazi controlled country provide consistent tension, but the film felt like a long overview of Liesel’s life in wartime Germany rather than an actual plot that builds to something. Still, the movie’s characters are endearing, and Liesel’s development and struggles give us something to root for. World War 2 buffs and fans of the book the film is based on will definitely want to give it a chance... See Full ReviewMarch 21st, 2014 · Details
As a fan of the book, I had high exceptions. This movie did not fail to deliver. It was almost perfectly cast, and well adapted to the screen. While most major plot points were represented in the film, there were many cinematic liberties taken. Not to be a spoiler, but prepare yourself for a major downer of a movie. Sometimes we need them.February 21st, 2014 · Details
"The Book Thief" (Fox), a film about how the power of reading can transcend the vilest bigotry, is so beautifully crafted and performed, it makes you want to embrace and celebrate it.
But the picture comes with a defect that's too significant to be overlooked.
Director Brian Percival and screenwriter Michael Petroni have squeezed all the nuance and moral ambiguity out of their adaptation of Markus Zusak's much-lauded young-adult novel of 2005. What's left is a well-intentioned, awkwardly sentimental Holocaust story filled with "righteous Gentiles" and sanitized of historical context.
It's still a movie worth seeing, and mature adolescents won't have difficulty with it... See Full ReviewDecember 12th, 2013 · Details
I enjoyed this movie very much!! The story was very touching. My mother was about the same age as the little girl & it was fun thinking of her at that age & time in history.December 11th, 2013 · Details
subtle tale of a horrific story, thought provoking and inspiring. Would definitely recommend this oneDecember 10th, 2013 · Details
Excellent! This movie should be required viewing for all youth 12 yrs and older. It would help them understand the dangers of obsessive governments. Also good for adults. A great story about how good people pull together in hard times and how the human spirit can survive in extremely difficult times.December 5th, 2013 · Details
The Book Thief is a masterpiece on many levels. It touches the human heart deeply. The characters are well drawn and the acting is superb. Some have said it is a Disney like view of Nazi Germany, but I did not find that to be the case. This is not a Holocaust movie and shouldn't be viewed as such, It is a film about how people survive in exceptionally circumstances. It is the best depiction I've seen of how World War II impacted German families.
The impact of the film is a gut punch. Simply for reasons of emotional maturity, as a parent I would exercise judgement about the age of children I would take to this movie. There is nothing offensive about the film unless one is sensitive about some violence and issues dealing with death. One of the first lines of the film is "We're all going to die someday." That gives a clue as to the a theme of the film. Those who feel their children at age 12-13 aren't ready for that type of message should avoid taking them, but still go themselves. One reviewer mentioned religious profanities. I did not view those exclamations as intending to be profane, but some might.
I recommend The Book Thief highly. It is literate, intelligent, well crafted and sad. However, it even has a few laughs. With all of the tripe that passes for entertainment these day, this a wonderful exception. This film will stick with the viewer for a long time. Not to be missed.November 30th, 2013 · Details
In an interesting subplot Death is the narrator (voiced by Roger Allam) and kicks off the movie by reminding the viewer that it is a fact that everyone is going to die and he adds, "You'll meet me soon enough." And to a great extent that is what the movie is about, about some of the people close to Liesel dying and the horrors and atrocities of the Holocaust including the book burnings. It is a bit of a downer in a few spots but definitely offers hope by film's end... See Full ReviewNovember 28th, 2013 · Details
The film does provide a sense of everyday life for many Germans during Hitler’s reign—those who supported him and those who had to hold their tongues. And, unlike graphic war films, The Book Thief is one that parents can quite comfortably share and discuss with their tweens and teens... See Full Review
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... See Full Review
Based on the New York Times best seller, THE BOOK THIEF is wonderfully directed by Brian Percival of DOWNTON ABBEY. The performances are delightful and heartwarming, despite the difficult circumstances. While not overtly evangelical, THE BOOK THIEF tells a positive Christian, moral tale of adoption and self-sacrifice. There is almost no violence and no foul language or sex. THE BOOK THIEF does deal with some serious subjects, however... See Full ReviewNovember 7th, 2013 · Details