Mrs. T and I attend movies only rarely and then only when the mood strikes us and the topic seems worthwhile. The Book Thief is a melodrama about life under Nazism as told through the eyes of an illiterate young girl adopted by a German couple. The story does celebrate literacy, family and friendship during one of the darkest times in history.Despite the awful setting of a totalitarian nightmare society, the film offers an uplifting story of perseverance and hope. Perhaps too much so. It’s often sentimental and sometimes schmaltzy, but the understated performances are very well done. We not talking about the Diary of Anne Frank here and certainly not Schindler’s List. As you can probably tell I was somewhat conflicted about what I saw. I found it interesting but it made me uneasy. At first I wasn't sure why. Perhaps I knew too much of the history.
Yes, when the truth is subverted and information controlled then evil runs rampant. The scene showing books being burned says it all. The young girls new parents Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) are older and far less attractive than her biological and possibly communist mother. Rosa, at first, seems quite cold and conservative, ensuring the little girl with the blond curls and sweet smile immediately plucks a little heartstring to set the Dickensian tone of the whole yarn.The book, upon which this movie is apparently based, is of the genre now known as Young Adult or Teen Fiction, which is something new to me. Apparently, that explains a lot about the movie's appeal and deficiencies. Perhaps that’s what made me uneasy. A lot of it was more like a fairy tale with the bad stuff cut out or somewhat glossed over. Spunky heroines are nice but really…..pluck can only carry you so far especially in the shadow of Nazism. As to character development, except for Rosa, who shows a caring side, there isn’t much. Each person remains unchanged, in spite of the occasional bombings, death and destruction or picking on Jews. This all is as hokey as the lack of reality in "reality" TV. In the end, I didn’t find anything truly redeeming in most of this. Even though Mrs. T and I could be considered first class sentimental grandparents, when leaving the theater and asking the inevitable question, "so what did you think," we both shrugged and displayed our most puzzled expressions.