Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Who reads The Reader?

Firstly I'd like to apologize for my lame attempt at being funny with the title of this entry. I finally saw The Reader a couple of weeks ago and the next day bought the book because I wanted to see how it differed from the movie. This blog entry will have some very minor spoilers of the novel and movie, but none that most people couldn't figure out for themselves just from watching the trailer.

I thought The Reader worked very well as a movie, it had great acting and told the complex story very well. The movie hasn't gotten the best reviews, with it only tracking at 60% favorable, but not having read any of those reviews yet, I can't see why it wasn't better received. Basically the set up of The Reader is that a young guy (about 15 years old), Micheal, ends up having an affair with a much older woman (she's about 30 years old), Hanna, who he later finds out while attending a trial as part of his law schooling, was a guard at one of the concentration camps. At this point it had been several years since he'd seen her and finding out about this part of her past with all that he'd shared with her, just totally blind-sides him.

I don't know if I could say whether I liked The Reader better as a novel (called Der Vorleser when it was originally published in Germany in 1995) or as a movie because they both have their strengths. I am glad that I saw the movie first in this case, although I might have felt differently if I'd read the book first. There aren't any great differences between the book and the movie, but the book, even though it's not real long (it's only 217 pages) manages to flesh out some of the details (as novels are often wont to do) with a prose style which surprised me with its visual richness.

I thought both the novel and movie did a great job at communicating how the Holocaust affected German people that didn't even have any direct involvement in the atrocities committed during World War II for many years afterwards. Thinking about this now, I'm going to guess that some reviewers or people who saw the movie may think that The Reader downplays the horrors of the Holocaust, but as a recent documentary on PBS that unearthed a journal and photos of some workers at one of the death camps shows, the people working at the camps were not all monsters, they could do horrific things during the day and just act as if it was another job that needed to be done. That is why I think The Reader is so powerful, as it illustrates that the most seemingly "normal" person has the capacity to do horrific things.

1 comment:

Jarret said...

The Reader is a wonderful read indeed, Ralph. Hanna is an interesting character, and the narrator's complicated feelings for her are at once restrained and palpable. It's one of those stories you never forget and almost seems like it really happened. Another lovely (yet somehow more disturbing) book you may want to consider is Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road, also made into a Kate Winslet production last year. Written in the 1950s, it was the among the first of the 'suburban American angst' novels and probably the best due to its mix of emotional empathy and psychological evisceration and the author's exquisite, effortless prose style. Haven't seen either of the film adaptations, but they're queued up in Netflix. Winslet's previous works (Quills, Iris, Finding Neverland, Little Children) are all quite good so I'm looking forward to watching The Reader and Revolutionary Road.

Happy New Comics Wednesday 7/18/18 - Life of Captain Marvel, Magic Order #2 (we still have #1 too!), conclusion of Infinity Countdown, Justice League edition!

 Hope all of my friends going to the San Diego Comic-Con this week have a GREAT time!