Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cinema: The Reader

This is an extraordinary film: directing, screenplay and acting. Not easy to watch, but extraordinary to experience.

My biggest worry was that the screenplay could not live up to the Schlink's exquisite book; that, it would make the spring/summer aspect of the relationship too central, or that it would make the illiteracy aspect the crux, or that it would not do justice to Schlink's intellectual provocation on responsibility.

Hare's screenplay is magnifient: the emphasis is squarely on the responsibility for one's actions. To the point where the fact that Hanna couldn't possibly have written the white-wash report was down-played as was Middle-Michael's ethical lack-of-balls in not informing the presiding judge. Daldry's directing is lingering: he gives both the characters and the viewers time to think: and the editor does not speed it up so that your brain is on auto. Screenplay = tick. Director = tick. Editor = tick. Makes this a pretty good film in my books.

Now to actors. Winslet is terrific: just mesmerising. There are three distinct phases: the early love affaire; the middle trial; and, the later acceptance of responsibility through personal growth. The haunted anguish in those eyes is so affecting, and nowhere more so than during the trial where she is unwittingly self-incriminating where she thinks she is simply being truthful; where she is confused through lack of brain-power and lack of emotional intelligence. As she listens to the tapes in her gaol cell, the sheer pleasure and awakening of moral responsibility is overwhelming for the viewer. This is good acting.

The young Michael is very winning. At first I thought him too mature to be 17 or indeed 15. But if he had been a weedy 15 year old, it would have been an uncomfortable set of love-making scenes. David Kross, whom I do not know, does a believable job.

And so on to Ralph Fiennes: I wish he had not been cast in the role of the mature Michael. You know he is a big name and was paid squillions to do the film therefore I was always waiting for him to come back into the story. He is a distraction. I think a noname actor would have been more appropriate. Not that Fiennes does a bad job. I just found him irritating.

Now, to reread the book before I see the film again.

Rating: *****
Cinema: Roseville
With: Shirley

1 comment:

Chuckeroon said...

Tks for this review, Julie. I'll be rereading the book.... It certainly deserves it.

(Oh, and Ai Caramba! regarding the hearing aids...hope it all settles nicely).