I remember reading the Book Thief and liking it very much. It didn’t touch me as much as similar novels like Those Who Save Us, but it still hit a nerve. Then again, it’s hard to write a story about the Holocaust and not hit a nerve. That’s just par for the course when writing about mass genocide. Considering that I enjoyed the book so much, I looked forward to watching the movie in theaters. Especially since it was garnering Oscar buzz before it even hit the big screen.
However the movie ended up being not at all what I expected. Mostly because Death narrates it with a sense of humor. Which is weird because there’s no part of the movie that’s meant to be funny. To catch you up quickly, I’ll give you the rundown on the plot.
Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) and her little brother must go live with a foster family since her mother’s a communist and therefore a Nazi target. However her brother dies on the way to the foster family and Liesel arrives alone. Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) take Liesel in, but only for money, a fact that Rosa makes all to clear by treating her recently orphaned foster daughter coldly. As the Holocaust gets going, the family hides Max (Ben Schnetzer), a Jew, in their basement. Liesel grows close to him because they’re both basically orphans of the war. He almost dies twice in their home and then finally leaves to save them from getting in trouble with the Nazis. Liesel, a child who’s already lost to much, falls apart. Then to make matters worse, Hans gets sent to war. Then her best friend Rudy (Nico Liersch), and really only friend, dies when their street gets bombed. Oh, everyone else who lived on the street dies too. In conclusion, everyone except Liesel dies.
Did you make it through that description without crying from laughing so hard? I know, it’s hi-lar-i-ous. Slash not. Not at all. Which is fine, because, as we talked about earlier, it’s a story about the Holocaust. But that’s why it’s so weird that the angel of death narrates it with a wry sense of humor. He’s not Carrie-Bradshawing throughout the film, but he does make himself known at especially tragic times. It most definitely takes you out of the movie because whaattt and whhyyy. Who thought this would be a good idea? I know there’s a similar set-up in the book, but I don’t recall Death having that ironic sense of humor.
With all that said, it’s not a bad movie. You’ll just cringe every time you hear Death starts speaking.
(Photo: Upcoming Movies)