• James Rutherford

'The Reader': A Sophisticated and Emotionally Galvanizing Post-World War II Drama


Movie poster for the film The Reader starring Kate Winslet and David Kross

"The Reader" (2008) is a striking German-American drama that opens with Michael (Ralph Fiennes) reminiscing about his adolescence in post-World War II Berlin, and his fateful relationship with an older woman named Hannah (Kate Winslet).


In flashback we find 15-year old Michael beset by Scarlet Fever, stumbling through the streets of Berlin before being rescued by a tram conductor (Hannah) who helps to deliver him to his home and out of harm's way. Later searching out his alluring benefactor, Michael finds himself quickly caught up in a passionate affair with the much older woman, forsaking family and friends for every opportunity to ensconce himself in her world of lust and desire.


As their time together progresses, Hannah begins urging Michael to read to her on a daily basis—to which he draws from many classic novels and delights in their rich literary interchange. However Hannah suddenly disappears from Michael’s life entirely, only to reappear 8 years later when young law student Michael is stunned to find her in Heidelberg—now facing serious criminal charges from a World War II war-crimes tribunal.


Based on the best-selling novel by author Bernhard Schlink and directed by Stephan Daldry ("Billy Elliot", "The Hours") "The Reader" delivers a powerful and emotionally galvanizing human drama within the framework of a tense historical setting, with Winslet providing a truly mesmerizing, Academy Award-winning performance. It's dynamic and sophisticated cinema that provides a compelling story of youthful infatuation beset by the darkest currents of humanity—amounting to one of the finest dramas of the 21st Century thus far.

 

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