A poet falls in love with an art student who gravitates to his bohemian lifestyle -- and his love of heroin. Hooked as much on one another as they are on the drug, their relationship alternates between states of oblivion, self-destruction, and despair.
THE READER opens in post-war Germany when teenager Michael Berg becomes ill and is helped home by Hanna, a stranger twice his age. Michael recovers from scarlet fever and seeks out Hanna to thank her. The two are quickly drawn into a passionate but secretive affair. Michael discovers that Hanna loves being read to and their physical relationship deepens. Hanna is enthralled as Michael reads to her from "The Odyssey," "Huck Finn" and "The Lady with the Little Dog." Despite their intense bond, Hanna mysteriously disappears one day and Michael is left confused and heartbroken. Eight years later, while Michael is a law student observing the Nazi war crime trials, he is stunned to find Hanna back in his life - this time as a defendant in the courtroom. As Hanna's past is revealed, Michael uncovers a deep secret that will impact both of their lives. THE READER is a story about truth and reconciliation, about how one generation comes to terms with the crimes of another. Written by
The Weinstein Company
Stephen Daldry's first choice for the lead role was Kate Winslet, who originally turned down the offer due to a scheduling conflict with Revolutionary Road (2008). When Nicole Kidman accepted the role, the producers built in a hiatus in order to allow her to finish filming Baz Luhrmann's Australia (2008). However, by the time Kidman was set to begin her scenes on the film, she withdrew because of her pregnancy, vacating the role. Winslet, who was now available, agreed to replace Kidman. See more »
When Michael is making the tapes, we see a notebook where he lists his recordings between 4 August 77 and 10 October 77. One of the entries is: Heinrich Böll, Women in a River Landscape. This novel was first published in 1985, so Michael couldn't have possibly read it in 1977. (Someone probably confused this title with another novel of Böll's, "Group Portrait With Lady", about the life of a woman born in 1922, which came out in 1970 and was very well received and popular at the time.) See more »
The film is a series of profound moral dilemmaswhile contrived by the author, they are fair questionsthat resonate deeply in the 21st Century: The role of guilt in victims, perpetrators, individuals and collectively, as well as justice, forgiveness, redemption, shame and, of course, literacy and its role in Western thought.
All this is a pretty heady mix for a film, but Stephen Daldry (as with "The Hours" ) makes literary conceit play very naturally here. David Hare's screenplay and the remarkable cinematography of the always remarkable Roger Deakins together with a sensitive score by Nico Muhly, this is indeed rarefied film-making.
But the actors are what drag the audience into this story. David Kross is amazing as the young Michael who has to play a range of virginal innocent to wizened and bitter. It's the key role in the film, and we're all lucky he was found to play this role. And the ever confounding Kate Winslet. What an amazing career for this young actress! Running through a list of her credits, she has some of the best performances of the last decade: "Holy Smoke," "Eternal Sunshine ," "Iris," "Finding Neverland," "Little Children." But here she does something very different. Playing what amounts to a monster, we see that they too are human. Not many actresses could bring this off, but it may be her greatest accomplishment to date.
Ralph Fiennes brings a continuity to the work David Kross begins, and there's a brief appearance by Lena Olin who commands the dignity the role deserves.
I'm puzzled at the lukewarm reception to this film. I almost missed seeing it. And it turned out to be one of my favorite and the most heart-rending films of the year. All involved should be very proud.
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