The Reader is not only an erotic drama but also a coming-of-age movie set in the most unusual time period. It opens with a scene featuring Ralph Fiennes and full-frontal female nudity, just to pique the interest of those who were thinking this is going to be another boring drama. And if you wait long enough there will be also full-frontal male nudity. Based on a novel of the same name, written by Bernhard Schlink, this is one of those Academy Awards movies. Actually, since the Academy Awards have been so messy in recent years, I better not make that comparison.
Let’s just say that The Reader is one of those all-around great movies. This means that every aspect of this movie will be perfect. The cinematography is gorgeous and the production values are superb, something that’s very important for period movies. And you can already guess that the cast gave phenomenal performances. We will be following a teenager who enters a relationship with an older woman and falls for her completely. However, their relationship will soon enter a strange new phase.
The main story tackles a subject so prickly and fickly that even half a century later, we are unable to come to terms with it. Of course, I am talking about the legacy of Nazi Germany. And this has caused quite a controversy as people accused it of being revisionist. Just to be clear, I don’t think it is. Just because you humanize someone doesn’t mean that you support what they’re doing for fuck’s sake! However, to say that this is a movie about just that would be wrong. The Reader is a far more complex movie.
It is the year of our lord Satan 1958 and 15-year-old Michael is not feeling so well. Delirious and constantly nauseous, he’s barely able to walk. Hanna Schmitz, a tram conductor, finds him in this state and helps him get home safely. After some time, Michael is finally healthy and eager to say thank you to his savior Hanna. He decides to bring her flowers and Hanna decides to fuck him…
The Reader features an incredibly juicy and sexually-charged atmosphere. Director Stephen Daldry managed to capture that feeling of excitement and pure joy in a very raw, almost voyeuristic way. Despite this, the movie doesn’t feel sleazy or filthy like some of the eighties and nineties erotic thrillers. Kate was ravishing and David Kross was young and strong, what a combination. Oddly enough, some 15 years earlier, Kate was in another controversial coming-of-age movie, Heavenly Creatures.
I know that the next subject we should be covering is the reverse situation where a 35-year-old guy seduces a 15-year-old girl. If they made the same movie, but with a male protagonist, you would consider it horrible, distasteful, and rightly so. This is just how the world works. Oh wait, I do think I remember one such movie starring Jeremy Irons, yes, Lolita it’s called. Although if we’re talking about themes of sex and Nazis, I simply have to mention the cult classic The Night Porter starring young Charlotte Rampling. And that’s a movie from 1974, some 29 years after the end of WWII.
Finally, I do want to add that The Reader is basically a movie of two halves. And I don’t want to tell you anything about the second half because I don’t want to spoil it for you. I did thought about this for a long time and even excluded these parts from the trailer you can watch below. It is my learned opinion that this movie should be digested in a way its writer, Bernhard Schlink.
Director: Stephen Daldry
Writers: David Hare, Bernhard Schlink
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Jeanette Hain, David Kross, Kate Winslet, Bruno Ganz, Jeanette Hain
Fun Stuff: David Cross learned English just for this movie. The production also waited for him to turn 18 so they could film the sexual scenes without additional issues.