Kate Winslet and David Kross make The Reader and its ideas leap off the page.
THE READER directed by Stephen Daldry, written by David Hare from the novel by Bernhard Schlink, with Kate Winslet, David Kross and Ralph Fiennes. An Alliance release. 120 minutes. Opens Friday (December 12). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
It's 1958 Berlin, and 16-year-old Michael Berg (David Kross, who's terrific) has his first sexual relationship with the much older Hanna Schmitz (a flashy Kate Winslet), who likes him to read to her. He's devastated when she suddenly disappears, but doesn't discover her dark past until years later.
Adapted superbly by David Hare from Bernhard Schlink's novel, the film is packed with ideas exploring sexuality, shame and forgiveness. (We see the affair's effect on an adult Michael, played by Ralph Fiennes.)
On its surface, it's about what Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil and how a young woman ends up embroiled in the death camp machine. (This, by the way, is not a spoiler, but the trailer is full of them - avoid it at all costs).
But the film is called The Reader. It's Michael who's the subject, along with the rest of his postwar generation trying to cope with their nation's Nazi history.