The Reader (2008) was much talked about when it came, for the brilliant performance of an ageing lead role by Kate Winslet, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. The film is known for its sensual scenes where a 36-year-old woman Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) working in a West German city of the late 1950s, seducing a 15-year-old boy Michael Berg. As I was watching the film, I thought the first 30 minutes of the romantic encounters reminding us of The Graduate (1967) will be the favourite ones for the audience, but it turns out the last 30 minutes will be the reason to watch this film. The story shifts to the late 1960s, our young boy is now a law college student who is witnessing a court trial against six female SS guards who had overseen the murder of 300 Jews in the concentration camps and one of the defendants is Hanna. What happens in the trial, the secret that Hanna carries with her, how it changes the life of Hanna and how Michael handles it forms rest of the story.
After the first hour of passion, the film takes a serious turn to talk about Nazi atrocities – the middle part of the film is painfully slow, but if you get through it, the climax is good and that’s when everything starts to make sense. The dialogues in the scene between the lonely survivor of the Auschwitz camp and Micahel was superb – showing that it is impossible for anyone who was put in the extermination camps to be able to forgive those who served in the SS guards – she says you don’t go to these camps to learn anything, you go there only to (die), if you want to learn something go to a theatre or read something, not to the camps.
Available on Netflix India
Also published on Medium.