Based on the beloved international bestselling book, The Book Thief tells the story of an extraordinary, spirited young girl sent to live with a foster family in WWII Germany. While subjected to the horrors of Nazi Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others, including a Jewish refugee who is being sheltered by her adoptive parents in the basement of their home.
I was unfamiliar with the book on which this movie is based, but wanted to see it because of the quality cast (Geoffrey Rush & Emily Watson). I also had found, while researching the music for a friend, video clips (like this interview, and this one) which intrigued me. After seeing this beautiful film, I will definitely put The Book Thief on my reading list.
Narrated by Death himself, this tale shows ordinary Germans during Hitler’s rise while focusing on Liesel, her adoptive family, and the working class residents on her street. Some of the neighbors embrace the Nazi party, some just try to survive, Liesel’s parents try to save the son of a Jewish friend.
As Liesel grows up, she finds great joy and comfort in stories. After the Bürgermeister arranges a mass book burning in the town square, the books that remain become even more precious to her – requiring some creativity and stealth for their acquisition. Hence the title.
The war progresses as wars do, the Nazis grow their evil as Nazis do. Death is always there keeping us abreast of his work: “The bombs were falling thicker now. It’s probably fair to say that no one was able to serve the Führer as loyally as me.”
Ultimately, what I appreciated most perhaps is the ability to convey humanity in the German people, without downplaying the depths of evil in which their country is submerged.
The performers that drew me to this film originally were definitely not a disappointment, heading up an impressive cast overall. Notably: Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse, who is luminous and heartbreaking, as our protagonist. As Rudy, her lovesick friend, Nico Liersch brings to life his hopefulness and longing.
This movie is perfect for most in my circle, though may be a bit slow and ‘small’ for a few.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 46%; Audience 75%