2009 Oscar Ritual : THE READER
February 6, 2009, at Cinemark Legacy, Plano, Texas
Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Kate Winslet), Best Director, Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography
The Reader is one of those films that is easy to describe but difficult to relay. At its core is the story of a woman’s relationship with a teenage boy, but this is merely a setup to a much larger story of perception and understanding and absolution, or perhaps not obtaining any of those things. What begins as an intense affair transforms into a young man’s struggle to make sense of his love for a woman in light of her despicable past, his inability to accept that both women are one in the same. In this struggle he must also question himself, and in the end must learn to live with difficult choices he is forced to make.
Kate Winslet is the focus of acclaim for her role as the central figure of The Reader, but it is the young man who plays her lover that actually carries the film. As Hannah, Winslet is staunch and unemotional, and she plays the role with gusto, revealing very little in her face or her eyes. Even moments of true regret and true grief are played with barely moist tears, and Winslet carries the role to perfection. But it is her co-star, David Kross, who displays all the outward emotion the audience longs to express. As the young lover, he is the film’s conscience, its heartbeat, and he is brilliant in his performance. His struggle and inner turmoil are palpable. When the story is viewed through his older self, beautifully played by Ralph Fiennes, we are wont to adjust our own thinking toward Hannah. We are unable to judge her outright for the horrific sins of her past because we have seen her through her lover’s eyes. And even as the story progresses twenty years ahead, we are still unable to reconcile the two sides of this woman.
The Reader is a difficult film to watch, but it is utterly beautiful in its presentation. There is often more silence in the film than dialogue, but the actors offer volumes in their faces alone. And it is the actors who carry you on the journey. By the end, I still did not know what to embrace or what to mourn, but I was glad that I traveled such an arduous road.
image from Rotten Tomatoes