Released in 2008, based on the novel by Bernhard Schlink and directed by Stephen Daldry, "The
Reader" is a tear-jerker, a heart-wrenching drama. It tells the story of lawyer Michael Berg (Ralph
Fiennes) reflecting on his affair with an illiterate older woman, Hanna Schmitz, (Best Actress Kate
Winslet) in post WWII Germany.
I am the Ranting Usher. Let me read you to your seat.
While carrying a somber tone, the film moves at a slow pace although not at the expense of
keeping you emotionally invested in the characters. The way their lives come together and are
then torn apart will have you reaching for the tissues.
“I was on my way home from school,” Berg narrates to his daughter. “I was feeling ill. A woman
Some of the titles of the books featured in the movie, Odyssey and War & Peace echo both the
passion and friction between Michael and Hanna during their relationship.
Hanna may come across as articulate, but her difficulty with reading is implied in subtle yet
obvious ways. She insists, for instance, that Michael order an entrée for both of them rather than
choose one from the menu.
Illiteracy is hardly her only secret.
As a law student, Michael discovers a terrible truth about Hanna while she stands trial, SPOILER
ALERT. Hanna was a German war criminal who executed innocents during WWII. But Hanna would
rather confess that she is guilty as charged and face a prison sentence rather than admit that she
never learned to read. Certain parallels are set in motion when the film returns to Berg in his
later years. When he struggles to keep his relationships together, it’s easy to assume that having
been estranged from Hanna may be the reason why. She is the one he wants to go back to, the
one he wants to read to.
Before going any further, I want to announce that more SPOILERS will be included during this
portion of the review.
Michael and Hanna are eventually reunited when Hanna is faced with the prospect of parole.
While Hanna has taught herself how to read, she does not seem to have undergone much of a
character arc during her sentence. Hanna lets on that she is ready to be released from prison
but unfortunately chooses to take her own life rather than face the real world, leaving Michael to
mourn her passing.
How do you feel about "The Reader?" Do you like the way the story played out? Could Hanna
have saved herself from spending years in prison if only she had been willing to admit she was
illiterate? Could Michael have persuaded Hanna to change her ways had they stayed together?
Could he have helped her to rehabilitate to the real world following a shorter prison sentence or
do you think that for Hanna to change would have been a total breach of her character?
Let me know in the comments down below.
Thank you so much for reading & I'll see you next time.
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