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The Book Thief


“The Book Thief” looks at the lives of ordinary Germans in that time, apolitical until it was too late to speak out, or too young to know what was happening, joining the Hitler Youth or taking part in demonstrations because it was required, struggling to feed their families as their men were conscripted. It doesn’t downplay the evils of Nazism or the complicity of the majority, but it gives us another angle. Based on the best-selling 2005 young adult novel by Markus Zusak, “Book Thief” tells the story of Liesel Meminger (the luminous Sophie Nélisse), the eponymous pilferer. Liesel is the daughter of Communists (her father has disappeared, and her mother will soon), taken to live with a couple to Molching, on the outskirts of Munich. On the train there, her brother dies. At his hastily dug tomb, Liesel absconds with her first volume, “The Grave-Digger’s Handbook.” It is the first of many; the next will be picked up, still smoldering, after a book-burning. “Here is a small fact,” says the narrator. “You are going to die.” That narrator is Death (Roger Allam), speaking to us in a British accent. He is a busy fellow but compassionate in his work. The device, jangly but effective in the book, can seem a bit precious, but it works well in the climactic final scenes. Liesel’s new parents are Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson), whose foul mouth and anger disguise true warmth. Hans, a painter, refused to join the Party, and is underemployed, going out to play his accordion in the evenings. Rosa takes in laundry to make ends meet. They give Liesel their love. So does their next-door neighbor, Rudy Steiner (the impish Nico Liersch), an athletic towhead whose hero is the black American runner Jesse Owens. Rudy and Liesel become friends, playmates and allies. Hans helps her learn to read, and Liesel gets more books. The times grow still darker, and one night there is a knock at the door. It’s Max (Ben Schnetzer), son of the man who saved Hans’ life in World War I, and a Jew on the run. The Hubermanns take him in. Screenwriter Michael Petroni has done a first-rate job of adapting Zusak’s book. Director Brian Percival’s pace is sometimes leisurely, but the small moments are important, and the ending is quietly memorable. The casting is sterling. Nélisse and Liersch, both now 13, are astounding; Rush and Watson are both actors’ actors, and even the smallest roles display an unusual depth of characterization. “The Book Thief” is that rarity, a film that’s as good as its source. Courtesy: Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Official Trailer
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Directed by: 
Brian Percival
Running Time: 
Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Ben Schnetzer, Nico Liersch, Roger Allam
Screenplay by: 
Screenplay by Michael Petroni<br> Based on the novel by Marcus Zusak

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