Based on Australian author Markus Zusak’s bestselling novel of the same name, this tells the story of Liesel (Nélisse), a child sent to live with foster parents during the early years of World War II. When she arrives, she has a book with her and her new father Hans (Rush) encourages her to read. It is through this love of words that Liesel can escape the horrors of her life and foster the writer within.
Her parents Hans and Rosa (Watson) are struggling to earn a living, due in part to their continued reluctance to join the Nazi party. Of course, they appear to toe the line by flying the swastika and letting Liesel join the Hitler Youth but at home it is quite a different story.
The family is hiding a young Jewish man Max (Schnetzer) the son of an old friend of Hans. He is quite sickly but is grateful to be alive and, together with Hans, he encourages Liesel to read. She reads to Max and he encourages her to learn and use more words. When he asks her what the weather is like, he pushes for more descriptions until it is second nature for her to say more than ‘ it is a rainy day’.
Liesel and her best friend Rudy (Liersch) try to be kids. They go to school, play soccer and fight of the local bullies. They are closer than siblings and they never let each other down. Ever. As the war closes in on them, they try even harder to escape….if only for moments.
I have not read the book but it is my understanding that the movie is a pretty good adaptation. The author’s parents were immigrants who fled the war so he grew up on the stories they told and this inspired his book.
I found this movie touching and poignant. It was by no any means an accurate portrayal of Nazi Germany but this was the backdrop, not the story. Our young protagonist was innocent but with a sadness behind her eyes. She, as so many children in World War 2, knew and saw too much for her age. That she was living a double life, pretending to the world her family was not hiding a young man in her basement, makes her bravery even more poignant and her need to escape even more essential.
I loved her very special friendship with Rudy as the two children tried to make sense of their world. They always had each other as the war closed in around them. But it was her relationship with her father Hans that changed her forever. He gave her words and books and reading……that is one of the greatest gifts any parent can give a child. Even when you are old and gray, you can always escape back into the world of a new of beloved book.
This is just such a lovely movie. The subject matter is handled delicately, maybe even a little too delicately, and I had a tear in my eye at the end. Liesel is doe eyed sweet but it is the way she affects all those around her that make the movie. One not to miss.
This movie merged two of my great loves…..movies and books. I do not read as much as I should and I was reminded how wonderful it is to lose yourself in a good book. I need to start reading again and must make time this week.
Love Flick xx
Director : Brian Percival
Starring : Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer, Roger Allam
Running Time : 131 minutes
Release Date : 9 January, 2014