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The Book Thief - Film Review

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by Amelia Saward (subscribe)
I'm an Arts student in Melbourne, with a love of drawing and writing and a passion for history and art.
Published January 12th 2014
The long-awaited film adaptation
Based on Markus Zusak's touching and award winning novel, The Book Thief, this film adaptation is directed by Brian Percival, written by Michael Petroni and stars Geoffrey Rush, Sophie Nélisse, Emily Watson and Ben Schnitzer.

Book thief, poster, liesel
The Book Thief- Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation


As a stand alone piece, the film was a success. It drew the audience in and just as importantly, showed them that the human spirit is present, no matter what the situation.

In capturing particular themes present in the book, the film left it a little short.

This was primarily as the book was so in depth about particular concepts, such as death, and it would have been near impossible to include so many of its thematic concerns in a film adaptation.

Death, also the narrator, was present at the beginning and end of the film, but seemed less prominent than it could have been. In saying that, it did a reasonable job to portray these themes in a simplified way.

Liesel and Hans- Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation


The real strength of the film was its portrayal of the human condition. The setting during World War Two and the holocaust emphasised this. It also showed the great simplicity of childhood.

Through Liesel and her relationship with adoptive father, Hans, and friend Ruddy, complex situations were shown as just another moment in life, albeit a significant moment.

This made clear what was important in life, kindness and compassion. It also displayed the power of simple things in getting us through difficult situations, for Liesel, the power of books and words.

Her relationship with Max, the Jew they were hiding, also showed this. His day was made when she eloquently described the weather outside to him. The power of imagination and creativity could have been strengthened further if what she wrote herself, in the journal Max gave her, was included in the film, as it was the book.

Liesel reading to Max- Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation


Having a PG rating and clearly aimed at being suitable as a family movie, gave the film a lighter feel. It meant that some of the more serious and potentially violent moments were slightly glossed over.

Positively, though, this allowed Liesel's relationships with those around her and her situation, in general, to be the focus of the film, as it should be.

Liesel and Ruddy- Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation


Nélisse showed a sensitivity in her acting, capturing both the light and somewhat comical moments, along with those more serious with a tender maturity.

The only downfall was not in her acting, but that while her hair and clothing changed as the film progressed, her look otherwise didn't. This made it hard to believe the difference in age from the beginning to the end of the film. Otherwise, her performance made the character of Liesel believable.

Rush, similarly, used a subtlety to convey his character, Hans Huberman, Liesel's adoptive father, with whom she had a special connection. His performance allowed Liesel to be the focus, yet still commanded attention.

Liesel, Ruddy and Rosa in the basement during a raid- Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation


Liesel, Rosa and Hans- Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation


The cinematography was quite beautiful, capturing Liesel's relationships and feelings. The first time she stepped into the mayor's library, with his wife Ilsa, is particularly alluring. The strength of the music was that it was not overpowering and subtly mixed in with the rest of the film.

Overall, the film's strength was its actors, along with its artistry. It took a complex novel and turned it into a meaningful film, which the audience could interpret differently, given age etc. While certain plot points could have been expanded, it was certainly enjoyable to watch and I would happily see it again.
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Why? An inspiring film
When: Now showing
Where: In cinemas
Your Comment
I saw The Book Thief last week and loved it! Having never read the book (or even heard of it before this movie was made), I found it was still a great movie. I was drawn into it and felt what the characters were feeling, which is what you want a movie to do. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone. Everyone knows that it is virtually impossible to show everything in a movie from a book. You just can't do it. So sit back and just enjoy the wonderful acting, especially Geoffrey Rush. I also enjoyed the actress who played his wife Rosa. By the end of the movie you do become attached to her as well. Mandy E,
by steve (score: 2|134) 1311 days ago
Will take two young teenagers to see it this week. I'm insisting they watch the Diary of Anne Frank beforehand. I think they need to know about this part of world history, and I have already explained to them that man has not learned any lessons from war through the ages. I don't think they are too young to be thinking about these things themselves. I have read the book and will try to appreciate the film as a cinematic experience. This may be hard as I classify The Book Thief as the best book I have ever read.
by Alison Muirhead (score: 2|202) 1311 days ago
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