How many movies can a person watch about how people felt about Hitler, the Nazis, and the wide-ranging effect of World War II? Just like westerns: they come and they go. But as long as these movies hit us with some important truths, there’s no need to curtail them. Certainly, this film shares a wealth of emotions that a group of Germans had to endure while suffering the curse of Nazism.
“It starts with a young…!”
It begins with a young girl – Liesel – who is sent to live with a German couple – after her own parents – Communists – are shipped to a stranger but feared death. She’s a sweet kid – blond, blue eyes – innocent – the kind of kid that melts your heart. She is played by Sophie Nelisse; and in the movie she is about twelve years old. She comes to live with this childless couple, who take her into their home with some fear. Geoffrey Rush (Hans) is now her new father; and her mother is Rosa – not exactly a hospitable woman… But Hans is wonderful. He quickly finds a way to touch her ghost in a funny way, and they develop a close rapport throughout the film.
“A big part of this movie…!”
Much of this film has to do with Liesel’s coming of age to love books – learning to read quickly and enjoying their content. What goes on on the outside seems nutrient-depleted, compared to how books fill her mind with strong nourishment. Hans teaches her to read the alphabet, then words and then really read a book. Her whole mind seems to absorb everything she reads.
“Into Her Life verscheen … !”
In her life appeared – immediately – a feisty young man, her neighbor, named Rudy, who becomes her companion and brother-like confessor. His great wish to kiss her does not come true, although she gives him a long lasting kiss at the end. One night, she is summoned by her foster parents to take in a runaway Jew in need of their protection, and is happily received by Hans whose life was once saved by this man’s father. Max is his name, and he and Liesel build a lovely platonic relationship filled with words.
“How nice to see people … !”
One of the wonderful aspects of this film is how it thrives on sheer innocence. How nice to see people of the opposite sex love without having to show us so many physical cinematic gestures. There are some scenes that I thought were emotionally beautifully done. I sat there, a dumb spectator, totally absorbed with no thoughts on acting – a fly on the wall observation as people before me went through Nazi-Will’s heartbreak and anxieties.
“There’s a tried and true saw!”
There’s a tried and true saw, “EMOTION WINS!”, that proved itself in this movie. A number of such scenes received my highest praise. The end of the film flowed bittersweet. Not to mention there’s a narrator called DEATH – who I found a bit annoying at first, but gradually got used to (his look) and even found him towards the end: endearing!
“‘THE BOOKTHief’ is based on… !”
THE BOOKTHEFT is based on a true life, and DEATH even tells us that Liesel survives the city’s last air raid to spend her long remaining years in an Australian city. I thought the way the movie dealt with the fate of the others was consistent with the story as it unfolded.
Hier is “Two Minutiae”… !
Two minutiae I wanted to mention here: One of the city’s shop windows showed three big German words screaming, “FEIND HORT MIT!” “The enemy is listening.” The irony of this warning was – although for the Nazis – Germans have to be careful what they say – as they will be heard by the “enemy” – for the Germans (in this film) the real enemy was the Nazis themselves, because their presence compelled the people to say little – unless they could be shipped along with the others! I also had a feeling that even though Liesel had been with her new parents for several years – and people noticed how she’d grown – she looked the same afterward as she did in the beginning. Nevertheless, the director, Brian Percival, did a great job of bringing the whole thing together.
“Call it a SEVEN PLUS!”
You ask, how would I rank this movie? I hesitate between a small EIGHT and a large SEVEN. So let’s call it a SEVEN PLUS.
Humbler Acts, the creator of “THE WIZARD’S OUTRAGEOUS SCHEME FOR STOPPING SMOKING,” reports a film each week as an easing of his speaking and writing about smoking cessation through dream use and Seven Forces. He is American, English educated and lives in St. Louis, MO (USA).