The Book Thief || Film || October 3rd 2013 || Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson || Directed by Brian Percival
The Book Thief is film based on an international best-seller by Markus Zusak by the same name. It’s about a book-stealing girl in Narzi Germany and her new life at her new foster home after her mother is taken away and her brother dies. Narrated by death himself, the story is faithful most of the time to the most important aspects of the book.
To see my book review for The Book Thief click here but in short: I thought this book was masterpiece and it is definitely at the top with my all-time favourite reads. I saw the movie the same day I finished the book so I could experience the translation of book to movie with all the details still fresh in my mind. In the end, for me it’s all in the details.
I’ve been hearing so many positive things about this movie, I almost refrained from writing this review because I didn’t want to be a spoilsport. I don’t usually agree with Rotten Tomatoes (their scores for book to movie adaptations ridiculous; the If I Stay rating is a joke and don’t even get me started on what was the average for Divergent) but I feel like 46% is about the amount that I would give for this film. I found many problems with it that just brought the whole experience of watching it down from pleasure to something of a chore.
The first thing that let the movie down for me was the pacing of it. For me, it was just too slow. I understand that the book was a slow burner and so, logically, the film should have been too, but because of this snail pace it felt like events were being dragged on.
Personally, I’m a fan of montages because I think they’re a great idea for when something happens again and again over a long period of time. You still get the effect of time passing but at the same time you don’t lose the information gained from those scenes and the best bit: the pace immediately quickens. And I believe one or two montages would have given us the time to develop other things that weren’t part of the film.
For example: why did Rudy’s dad go to war? “When they come and ask you for your children, you’re supposed to say yes.’ That was one of the most memorable quotes for me from the book and I was disappointed to find it was left out of the film when it gave me, as a reader, so much more understanding of life in Narzi Germany as well as doubling my sympathy for Rudy’s family. Things like these would have been explained should we have the extra minutes if the pace would have picked up.
Another thing that bothered me was how much toned down the film was compared to the book. Markus Zusak has done an incredible job of respecting the subject of Narzi Germany without suppressing it so that the setting and situations that came up were unrealistic. The film did the opposite. I’m not a fan of gore or seeing people in pain but there were no whippings and hardly any violence and that a let down.
I believe the film was aiming for a lower audience than the book altogether and this ties in with playing it safe with the Narzi setting. The best way to describe this would be take book Liesel and film Liesel and put them side by side. Book Liesel fought to stay in the car upon arrival at Himmel Street. Her palms were bloody and she refused to wash for days. Every single night for years she would wake up from nightmares of her brother dying on that train journey. Liesel in the film doesn’t have any of those problems. In fact, she doesn’t even seem to care her brother before her eyes. And because of this, too much connection between the viewer and Liesel is lost.
Now let’s end on a positive note because I still thought this was a decent/good adaptation. It definitely FELT like The Book Thief and that is sometimes hard to do. It had the atmosphere and that was made up of wonderful things listed below.
- Rudy – that little man was the cutest. He was the light in this whole movie with his humour and personality. Both of the child actors in the movie are so talented and they had really good chemistry between them that made me grin like an idiot.
- The German accents – such a minor detail but it made the atmosphere so much more real and elevated the film up a level in my eyes.
- Max – oh boy that actor is precious. He portrayed Max in a different way that I saw his character in the book but it was so refreshing to see. Basically: his performance was excellent.
- The whole story still had the heart warming feeling about it which is one of the things that makes the story of The Book Thief so special in my eyes.
Overall, I was disappointed with the movie. I would give it about 2.5/5 stars because I don’t have the heart to give it any lower. But hey, some people loved it so I’m glad it wasn’t a total tragedy.
On a really random side note: doesn’t she really look like Jane form Twilight in the picture on the left?