The Reader is a 2008 historical drama film directed by Stephen Daldry and written by David Hare, based on the 1995 German novel of the same name by Bernhard Schlink. The movie starred Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes and was nominated for several other major awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. However, the story does not really stand up to scrutiny as we will endeavour to explain in our following analysis.
S P O I L E R S
The film tells the story of Michael Berg, a German lawyer who, as a 15-year-old in 1958, has a sexual relationship with an older woman, Hanna Schmitz. She disappears only to resurface years later as one of the defendants in a war crimes trial stemming from her actions as a guard at a Nazi concentration camp. Michael realizes that Hanna is keeping a personal secret she believes is worse than her Nazi past – a secret which, if revealed, could help her at the trial.
It’s amazing to think that The Reader was critically acclaimed when it was released, considering the inherent flaws that the story contains. First problem is the most obvious one – there is no logic in Hanna’s refusing to divulge the fact that she is illiterate – even to save herself from life imprisonment! That makes no sense whatsoever. Also, does the movie expect us to believe that Hanna honestly believed that it was worse for her to be revealed as illiterate than a genocidal mass murderer? The mind boggles.
Then there’s the whole issue with the movie treating Hanna as a sympathetic character considering the fact that not only was she a war criminal but she was also a pedophile. Yikes! Yet, the movie tries hard to make its viewers emphatize with Hanna’s plight despite her obvious crimes! Ridiculous.
The Reader is the worst example of Oscar bait – seems to be of serious import but in essence is empty and deeply flawed as a story in itself. A contemporary example would be Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland which is a snoozefest that tries too hard to be relevant and significant but is not even a compelling story. Avoid both of these pretentious excuses for movie making.
… still there’s more …