Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson
Directed by Brian Percival
Based on the novel by Markus Zusak
Liesel Memminger (Nélisse) is taken in by two German parents when her own mother can’t take care of her anymore. On the train journey, Liesel’s younger brother dies from a cold and is buried besides the tracks. This is when she steals her first book, when the grave digger drops his book on how to do the job. Understandably, Liesel is not very enthusiastic about meeting her new caretakers. However Hans Hubermann (Rush) treats Liesel like a daughter and even her new rough mother Rosa (Watson) has a soft spot for her.
The story takes place during World War II with Nazi flags waving outside of homes and Jews being persecuted in Germany. The Hubermanns are not supporters of Hitler but must keep up the appearance that they are for their own safety. Liesel, just a girl, does not understand the war so much that Hitler has taken away her mother. When a young Jewish man turns up on the Hubermann’s doorstep in the middle of the night, they take him in to settle a debt Hans owed the man’s father for saving his life.
Meanwhile, Liesel has her own secret. The mayor’s wife lets Liesel in to read from her library when she comes to deliver their laundry. The movie follows Liesel’s life in Nazi Germany and how she keeps a Jew company hidden in the basement of her home.
The book has an interesting point of view that was also translated to the film. The story is narrated by Death, and how Death took an interest to Liesel and was intrigued by her book thievery. The movie did a good job staying true to the novel. It had the same feel to it as when reading the book: That is to say it followed a steady pace and kept some scenes in that could easily have been cut. For example when Rudy Steiner, Liesel’s best friend, paints himself in mud and runs the track at school, pretending to be Jesse Owens and is caught. It’s a minor scene in the book but was added to the movie.
The movie did a good job showing the horrors of what life was like during that time period. A brief scene shows Kristallnacht and how Jewish shopkeepers were forced to leave their stores. Even Hans Hubermann has a hard time standing by, watching people he knows get dragged away by the Nazis. Hans pays the price when he steps in during a situation and pleads for the Nazis to let his neighbor go.
“The Book Thief” is a worthy story as a book, and the director did justice to it by translating it to screen. It’s a movie that should be seen because the characters each have a good story to tell.