First released in 2006, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak is an international bestseller that is now a cinematic adaptation coming to the big screen on November 8, 2013. The Book Thief is about a teenage girl, Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nelisse) who is sent to live with foster parents in a southern town Nazi Germany. Narrated by Death (voice by Roger Allam), think gentle and kind, not Grim Reaper, the story follows Liesel as a young rebellious, egregious girl. Liesel learns how to read with her father, Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush) and adapts too life with her stern but loving mother Rosa Hubermann (Emily Watson). As her zeal for books develops, Leisel begins to steal books to escape from the reality of the world around her. One day, Jewish fugitive, Max Vandenburg (Ben Schnetzer) shows up to live in hiding in the Hubermanns basement. Max and Liesel develop a bond although Liesel cant talk about Max with anyone, not even her best friend Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch). The story follows Liesel and her relationships with Max, Rudy, Hans and Rosa in Nazi Germany. The Book Thief is depressing, but also gives you hope as you watch Liesel grow up into a generous person that even Death can’t help but love.
About 1 month ago, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to watch an advanced screening of 20th Century Fox’s version of The Book Thief and then participate in a round table interview with Director Brian Percival and Actors Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nélisse.
I was initially hesitant about the movie because I had not read the book and did not know the full story. Sometimes history pieces can be long and drawn out. My initial thoughts were so off the mark because but when I walked out of there I felt emotional and could not believe how captivating the movie was. Percival does a great job of showing the love but also the sadness as you go through the journey of The Book Thief through the eyes of Death and the life of Liesel. The movie follows the book as closely as possible considering the 550 plus page book is condensed into less than 2 hours. As Percival stated, he wanted to make “the movie as honest as possible.” Although, the book is narrated by Death, Percival said the movie “can’t use his [Death] narrations throughout because I think we would get really bored of someone telling us the story, we should use our own eyes.”
As much as the movie is a tear-jerker for the viewer, it was even more difficult for the actors to film. As Rush stated, on the last day of shooting, “Emily [Watson] and I both walked onto set together we both just burst into tears…we were just devastated, the impact of the story really hit us…for an audience, you wonder is this girl going to make it?” As you watch the movie you experience things that are just not going to go as you hope and the last scene is just that.
As a young newcomer to the movie industry, Nelisse brought light and joy to the movie and interview. She does not take away from the reality, she just depicts the innocence of a young teenager who understands the history but is also able to make the film experience memorable.
The Book Thief is a reality foremost and as a movie shows humanity was still alive in the difficult times of Nazi Germany. I am not a movie critic but I believe this movie has Oscar potential. I hope you give this movie a chance, you will experience a heart wrenching, unforgettable drama.
Click here to watch the trailer for The Book Thief.