The Reader is the story of Hannah Scnmitz and Michael Berg, they begin an affair in the summer of 1956 when Michael is only 15, and he becomes besotted with this experienced older woman, however it is an odd relationship as she starts trading their love making for stories as she likes Michael to read to her.
Theirs is a weird and at times one sided relationship which she abruptly ends by simply leaving when she is promoted from her job of ticket collector on the trams, to the office. Michael is devasted and the story jumps forward to 1966 with him morose and studying to become a lawyer.
It's here the film becomes more interesting, he and other volunteers from his class go with their teacher to see a real trial in action, the trial is for 6 female guards from the infamous Auschowitz prison camps, to Michael's horror Hannah is one of these guards, and from here he must try to deal with how he feels and both characters face life altering choices.
So this is the movie of the moment, not for the right reasons perhaps, but everyone seems to have a view on it even if they haven't seen it.
I decided to take a shot and give it a watch, what I found is a movie that has 2 main things going for it, the first being that it doesn't really force you to feel any certain way about what you are seeing.
The other is Kate Winslet, I am sure someone will correct me but I can't think of an actress who has given 2 such excellent and varied performances in one year. Her portrayal of Hannah Schmitz is haunting and subtle, their is a confident sexy side, a naive and almost innocent side, and a cold detached side all packaged into a character you can't help but feel conflicted by.
No such problem from Ralph Fiennes and his creepy man child stylings, the guy is a solid actor but something about him is always unappealing and a little off, the younger version of his character Micheal, played by David Kross, is well cast, as he too has the same type of unappealing and creepy demeanour, which means the "romance" part of the film is pretty much a bust.
However the supposed romance really isn't a romance, it's more a case of Hannah being lonely and wanting a companion, and the reason Michael is so affected by it in later life is that it was his first "love" and then he comes to find out his love was a guard at Auschowitz, kinda takes the swagger out of a man's stride.
The central story is a powerful and well told one across 30 years, yes it is slow and I dare say some will say boring, I think the first 30 minutes would be unwatchable without Winslet, but the second half of the movie where her case comes to trial is much more interesting and the timeline of their 2 lives we follow from here has some thought provoking points.
Direction-wise it's basic and serviceable, the narrative is tied together competently but I honestly felt I could have been watching an ITV drama.
I will probably never watch this film again It's a good story and a solid movie with a brilliant performance from Kate Winslet, but I don't think it is one of the top 5 movies of 2008.