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Friday, April 17, 2009

The Reader DVD Review

The Reader


On DVD: April 14th, 2009

Rated 18A for sexual content and nudity.

Running time: 124 minutes

Stephen Daldry (dir.)

Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz

Ralph Fiennes as Michael Berg

David Kross as Young Michael Berg

Lena Olin as Rose Mather / Ilana Mather

Bruno Ganz as Professor Rohl

Our reviews below:


The Reader DVD Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and winner of one (Best Actress, Kate Winslet), The Reader arrives on DVD this week. The story starts in 1995, Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) is a lawyer. We then flash back to the summer when he was 15 (the young Michael is played by David Kross), and the fateful love affair he had with Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet), a mysterious women who worked at the train yard. After she disappears, Micheal sees her again years later in a courtroom as she is being tryed for war crimes. Before she took the job tearing tickets on the train, she was a guard at a concentration camp. The relationship between the two people, when they are together or not, is disturbed and not normal, but in a way, because of their intimacy Michael is the only one who understands her. While the sex scenes are fairly graphic, they are still done tastefully and are not just graphic for the sake of showing skin.

The acting in the film is excellent. The story is interesting and has enough surprises to keep you guessing. Despite some of the films content, it’s not depressing or hard to watch and is actually very powerful. It’s message that even the worst people can still be human, is uplifting and believable. While Kate Winslet’s character is never likable, we almost come to care for her, because no matter what she has done she is still a person. This isn’t a film that’s a lot of fun to watch, but is definitely well worth seeing.

The DVD includes 11 deleted scenes, the films theatrical trailer, a 23 minute making-of and 4 short featurettes.


The Reader DVD Review By Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Nominated for Best Picture, and the movie that gave Kate Winslet her first Oscar for Best Actress, The Reader is a well made film that manages to carry a hard premise. The Reader is the story of Hanna Schmitz, a woman with a dark past, who has an affair over one summer with a 15 year old boy, Michael Berg. She is more than twice his age, and seems to be obsessed with having him read to her. The affair ends abruptly towards the end of the summer, and Michael’s life goes on, now forever changed. Years later, as a law student, he is present at a war crimes trial, where he discovers her to be the accused. It is not until many years after this that their lives become intertwined again in an interesting way.

Based on a best-selling book, The Reader is a well made movie that manages to tell it’s story well. Very much carried by the acting, young David Kross holds his own with veteran actor Kate Winslet. The rest of the cast deliver strong performances as well.

The DVD of The Reader includes 11 deleted scenes, as well as many featurettes, which examine different parts of the filmmaking process. The shortest one, (approx. 5 min.), gives us a look into the quiet, pleasant underscore by Nico Muhly, which gave the movie the right feel for it’s hard to tackle topics. Overall, this movie is one that would be worth seeing, and probably getting if you are into collecting Best Picture nominated films. It’s better than I had thought it might have been. I am glad to have finally seen The Reader.


The Reader DVD Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

It takes real skill to take a premise that is disturbing, and make it work. Such is the case with The Reader. Shown through a series of flashbacks, the movie follows Michael Berg, and his connection to Hanna Schmitz. The connection begins when a then 15 year old Michael is coming home from school. He feels sick, so a mysterious 30 something woman comes along to help him. The woman takes advantage of Michael, having him read to her, in exchange for sexual favours, while calling him “kid”, in an effort to remain detached. The woman, Hanna, is disturbing and cold, and is obviously hiding secrets. We next see Michael as a law student, watching a war crimes trial against Nazi guards. Michael is shocked when he sees Hanna in the defendant's chair. As the years go on, Michael finds it in him to forgive Hanna for what went on in the past. Disturbing as this film can be at times, The Reader has a lovely message about forgiveness, friendship, and the fact that there are no bad people, only people who do bad things. Even people who do the most despicable things still are humans worthy of compassion.

The Reader is a very well made film. The acting is excellent, and Kate Winslet was deserving of her Oscar win. Although we are shocked by Hanna’s coldness, we really feel for her. There is no violence or strong language in this movie, and the nudity in the film is not exploitative, but shows how vulnerable Michael really is. (concerned viewers will be relieved to know that the actor playing young Michael, David Kross, was indeed 18 at the time of filming.) Nico Muhly’s minimalist score fits the movie well, holding the viewer fast, while moving the film along.

The bonus features on this DVD are really good. The feature on Nico Muhly’s film score is interesting to watch. There are also deleted scenes, a featurette on aging Kate Winslet, and much more. This is one movie worth owning on DVD.


The Reader DVD Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

Kate Winslet’s portrayal of Hanna Schmitz is chillingly good. Hanna Schmitz’ seduction of teenager Michael Berg in her cool and efficient way is both disturbing and compelling to watch. There is one scene where she is washing Michael and it seemed so detached that she could have just as easily been washing a dog or a car. It is only when Michael reads to her as part of their lovemaking routine that Hanna shows any real emotion, laughing and crying with the books. After their summertime affair, Hanna disappears without explanation. Michael moves forward with his life and we see him next in the movie as a law student covering the trial of Nazi guards. The story is told through a series of flashbacks showing us Michael then and now. Watching Michael see the human side of Hanna and ultimately show forgiveness and kindness to her is one of the reasons this is such a powerful story.

This is a quiet and powerful movie with excellent acting and beautiful score. The DVD bonus feature with the composer Nico Muhly is nice for fans of film scores to see. Overall, The Reader translates well to DVD and if you missed this one in theatres now is your chance to see what the Academy saw in Kate Winslet’s performance and why the movie was a Best Picture nominee.


The Reader DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Based on the bestselling German book Der Vorleser by Bernard Schlink, The Reader tells the story of two people, Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) and Michael Berg (David Kross/Ralph Fiennes). In 1958 they fell into a brief affair, he a 15 year old student and she a tram conductor in her 30s, during which she had him read to her from the books he was studying. In 1966 his law professor (Bruno Ganz) took his class to a courtroom where Hanna was implicated in the deaths of hundreds of concentration camp prisoners. After a number of years in prison, Hanna was reconnected with Michael in an unexpected way.

Though filmed in English, The Reader was largely shot in Germany with a mostly German cast. At over two hours and despite the largely brooding atmosphere, the film is well paced with superb acting throughout, as expected from the classic actors involved and notably from David Kross, who has to deal first with the affair with a woman more than twice his age, and later with watching helplessly while she is in court for war crime. Aside from some brief flashes of nudity, the sex scenes are mainly head and shoulders shots, and not as creepy as one might expect. The various periods, from the 1950s to the 1990s, are well depicted down to the smallest detail. The minimalist score by American Nico Muhly, still in his 20s, is well fitted to the various scenes and moods as they unfold.

Though there is no commentary track (which we would probably never hear anyway) the DVD has lots of extras, including deleted scenes and various interviews and featurettes.


Consensus: Best Picture nominated film, with excellent performances by it's cast, and an intriguing story line. ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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