THE BOOK THIEF
THE BOOK THIEF
Run time: 131mins
Director: Brian Percival
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nelisse, Ben Schnetzer, Nico Liersch, Barbara Auer, Roger Allam
Synopsis: ‘The Book Thief’ tells the story of Liesel, an extraordinary and courageous young girl sent to live with a foster family in World War II Germany. She learns to read with encouragement from her new family and Max, a Jewish refugee whom they are hiding under the stairs. For Liesel and Max, the power of words and imagination become the only escape from the tumultuous events happening around them.
Adapted from Markus Zusak’s multi award winning novel which was listed on The New York Times Best Seller list for over 230 weeks, director Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) brings The Book Thief to the big screen.
Narrated by Death, (Roger Allam) the story is set in Nazi Germany, a place and time when the narrator notes he was extremely busy. It describes a young girl’s relationship with her foster parents, the other residents of their small town and a young Jewish man who hides in her home during the escalation of World War II.
In Michael Petroni’s dignified screenplay we first meet the nine year old Liesel (Sophie Nelisse) with her brother on the way to be given over for adoption. When her brother dies, Liesel picks up a book at the funeral as a reminder of him – although she cannot read. She is placed with Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) Hubermann in a remote small town and soon her immediate circle is filled also with classmate Rudy (Nico Liersch) who will be her soul mate and Max (Ben Schnetzer) a fugitive Jew whom the Hubermanns are hiding. Hans teaches Liesel to read and Max inspires in her a love of reading and writing. Disturbed by a Nazi book burning, Liesel rescues a book from the flames and later manages to take solace in books from the vast library of the local party bigwig and his wife, Ilsa Hermann (Barbara Auer) when she is sent to deliver their laundry.
This haunting film, beautifully shot by cinematographer Florian Ballhaus, has a lush score from John Williams. Because we experience events through Liesel’s eyes, The Book Thief becomes an intimate story rather than one about the momentous events occurring around her – the persecution of the Jews, Kristallnacht, book burnings and the rise Hitler youth are not foregrounded. Ultimately it is a film about the need to retain humanity and love and to act to those around you in the best possible way.
Images courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox