Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Reader

Due to the release today of the Academy Award nominations, we all know that the movie The Reader, based on the 1999 book by Bernhard Schlink has been nominated in both Best Movie and Best Acting categories. I recall the book as a compelling, uncomfortable story with complex characters, and it has stayed with me since that 1999 reading experience. The movie very effectively captures the essential story and the nuances of the characters, with superb performances by the cast. We know it is the tale of the sexual and emotional relationship an adolescent German boy has at the end of WWII with Hannah, a woman with a disturbing past. She is tried several years after their affair, for war crimes she committed as a Nazi prison guard, which rocks the foundations of the young man's life. An interesting sidebar to the story is her obsession about being read to, and the selection of books he reads aloud to her is most interesting and varied. The books used in the movie included The Odyssey, War and Peace, the works of Rilke, and a book by Anton Chekov, written late in his life, called The Lady and the Dog. It is the story of two married people who begin what they anticipate to be a casual liaison and they are repeatedly drawn to each other in more serious ways. It is the one book from which portions are read aloud several times in the movie, an interesting directorial choice in terms of pertinent and pointed content. It is well worth your time to see the movie, to read the book, and to consider the Chekov story as well.

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