1997 brought us Titanic and launched it’s two leads into superstardom. Everybody thought they both were the new leads of many blockbusters to come. That never actually happened. While Leonard did try (and fail) Kate just went onto more arthouse stuff like she did before Titanic. One thing’s for sure, she became a respected actress because of this and made a lot of good movies and will probably be a star in many more to come. But let us first take a look at the movie that brought her her first long-deserved Oscar.
Kate stars as Hanna Schmitz, a German woman who has some secrets. Some more gruesome than others. Living in Germany 1959 she meets a young schoolboy, Michael berg, 15 years old who she takes in after she finds him outside her house sick. Partially due to her help the boy recovers from his potentially lethal illness and he shows up at her house to thank her for her kindness. It’s at this point that she seduces him. The two have a summer-long-affair which consists of lots of sex, him reading to her (hence the title) and even a bicycling vacation. The boy is clearly in love and even neglects attention from girls the same age as he chooses to be with Hanna. He’s got a MILF-thingie going on here although she’s not a mom… but technically she could be, hell she could be his mom.
What’s going through her mind we’re not sure. Sex isn’t her main motive as she demands to be read to first later on in the relationship and she even goes along for the suggested vacation.
Then one day she disappears leaving not trace, no note. This gives young Michael a reality check. Years go by without him ever knowing what happened to her. Then one day he attends a joint trial of six Auschwitz guards and discovers that the love of his life is one of them.
The Reader doesn’t stop here, but I will because I don’t want to spoil anything, but in the end Hanna seemed to have even more skeletons in her closet than just her guard job.
The Reader is a movie about shame, not just shame of Germans and there actions in the war but shame about abilities and the lack off, shame about our actions. As shame leads to new actions or the withholding of those it’s also a movie about guilt. Lives could be saved by just speaking up but the shame prevents that. It’s a sad story. On of those where characters question themselves afterwards with questions that start with “What if…?”.
The Reader touched me, then it grabbed and took me in. It starts of slow and seems to be a softcore flick about some male fantasy but unknowingly starts to crawl under your skin. You wish these two, in their unconventional and illegal relationship, the best of luck. You know it’ll never work out.
Now to get back on the softcore male fantasy. The first hour of the movie is about the summer of ’59 and the relationship between a boy and an older woman. This relationship consists of large amounts of sex and neither of the leads is afraid to show skin. So we get lots of full frontal (and back) nudity from both Kate Winslet and David Kross. I must add to those men out there running to the video stores that the nudity is downplayed and ripped of all of it’s Hollywood glory. Yes they’re naked but their bodies are far from perfect. Especially Kate, with her big eyebrows is made to look worn, like she has been carrying a burden for more than 15 years now. This is reflected over all of her body and it doesn’t get glamorous a second. It might be a male fantasy, this story about an older woman hitting on a young boy, but it’s not as slick and filled with body doubles as you might expect.
The Reader is a sad, but beautiful little movie.