it only had 46% rating on rottentomatoes, with the consensus pointing to "a bit too safe in its handling of its nazi germany setting". but to me, the book thief handled this topic very well. just right. i don't really need to see the levelled cities or misshapen individuals to understand the movie's message. we all know what happened and the magic of the book thief is bringing a different view of the horrors of world war 2 and why such grand human conflicts should be avoided at all cost.
the book thief, based on the book of markus zusak, tells the story of a german girl named liesel, played superbly by sophie nelisse. after losing her brother to tuberculosis, she was adopted by a childless couple, played by geoffrey rush and emily watson, befriended rudy (played by nico liersch), a next-door neighbour. with the war blazing on and their own government "cleaning" the society of unwanted race, her papa decided to protect and hide in their basement a son of a former colleague, who happens to be a jew. liesel developed an extraordinary friendship with max (played by ben schnetzer) and her love for books became even stronger. her mama makes both ends meet by doing laundry for a mayor's family. the nazi government ordered the burning of all books but through her newfound relationship with the mayor's wife, liesel got a chance to open her horizons by spending a lot of time in the family's library. this went on with liesel even being allowed to "steal" books from the library. the germans were about to lose the war and with the allies closing in on berlin, liesel's town was bombed and her family and nico's family were all killed. she was then found by the mayor's wife and lived to old age to tell her story.
most films about world war 2 were about the victims of the third reich. the book thief was one of the few instances of how the terror of hitler's evils actually affected the very own people that he long wanted to purify. throughout the almost 6 years of conflict, germany lived off a peaceful life until the allied forces came in from the west and the red army captured the east. such was what the movie had. bombardment was only seen toward the end of the film. there were no extended battle scenes as these are not needed, and for this alone, i liked the film very much.
death as the narrator was also interwoven in the film and this added the magical realism to it. it is heart-tugging, telling the viewers about how fragile a man's life is. the film is successfully understated, effortless and captured the beautiful german town feel. its rich characterization was one of the film's strengths. theirs are relatable and likable. from the loving father to a strict but equally caring mother, to a muted nazi general wife, to a fun-loving pre-pubescent boy, to a persecuted jew who just wants to see his family again… all characters were well-written and very human. at the heart of it is sophie nelisse's liesel, balanced essaying of innocence and courage. academy award winner geoffrey rush and academy award nominee emily watson were their usual greats.
the book thief is about human beings struggling to find their humanity against a background of evils. it is about finding the courage to face difficulties and more importantly, the bravery to use your own life to make a difference... pyrotechnics not needed.