Markus Zusak’s novel ‘The Book Thief’ captured the imagination of many in 2005.
The book won a plethora of awards and it was also on The New York Times best seller list for an astounding 230 weeks.
With such an international hit a movie deal was always going to follow.
‘The Book Thief’ highlighted some positive behaviour during what was one of the most darkest periods in modern history, namely, World War II and the Holocaust.
A young single mother is suspected of being a communist in Germany in 1937 and in a bid to avoid the wrath of the governing Nazi party, she sets out to give her two children away to an adoptive family .
Her young son dies, but the daughter, Liesel Meminger (Nélisse) is adopted by a wonderful couple, the Hubermanns, who are played brilliantly by the talented Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.
Liesel is confused and distressed at the loss of her brother and mother but soon after her arrival, Hans Hubermann (Rush) teaches her how to read and it’s not long before she is finding respite from the horrors of World War II by borrowing and stealing books.
Shortly after Liesel’s arrival at the Hubermann household there is a knock on the door late at night.
Max an is a young Jew from Stuttgart. The Hubermanns and Liesel hide Max in the basement of their small home and during this time, Liesel and Max share their love of books and language together.
When an act of kindness brings unwanted attention to their home, the Hubermanns are forced to re-evaluate their situation.
The film’s opening scene of a steam train chugging through a snowy landscape is beautifully shot and it’s at this time that we are first introduced to the movie’s narrator, Death (Roger Allam).
Percival’s film feels authentic and rich and the way in which characters like Liesel and Hans develop during the first hour is commendable.
In particular, Sophie Nélisse’s performance as Liesel is excellent. Although some the character’s behaviour does ends up feeling annoying . Musical scores from John Williams is paced throughout the film and it’s been rightly nominated for an Oscar in its own right.
The obvious horrors and evils of World War II and the Holocaust are toned down giving the film a diluted version of what really went on. But then it is rated 12A Although my own opinion is that children of that age are well versed in the history.
There are tender moments when the Germans take shelter from Allied bombers in bomb shelters and charming as they are it was not enough, for me, to find any real empathy towards the characters. Death as a narrator is never fully realised.