Monday, 17 March 2014

The Book Thief (2013)

I first read Markus Zusak's The Book Thief back in 2009. I re-read the book a couple of months ago because I wanted to re-familiarise myself with the story before I saw its film adaptation. The Book Thief is a much beloved novel and has affected many people but sadly I'm not one of them. That doesn't mean that I dislike the book. I enjoy it. I think it's really well-written. It has likeable characters. It has important and meaningful themes. I enjoy Death's narration. And yet there's something about the book that feels off to me, something I can't put my finger on. Nevertheless I've still been looking forward to this film adaptation. Its director is Brian Percival who has a great deal of experience in filming period dramas. He's directed several episodes of Downton Abbey and he also directed North and South (2004). The latter is my favourite BBC miniseries and one of my all-time favourite literary adaptations so I knew that this film would be in good hands :)

The Book Thief is visually beautiful. It was actually filmed in Germany and it has brilliant production values. I loved the acting in this film. Everyone is extremely well-cast and they bring their characters to life brilliantly. Liesel Meminger is played by the young French-Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse who deserves to become a big star after this. She gives a fantastic performance. I loved Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson's performances as Hans and Rosa Hubermann, and Ben Schnetzer and Nico Liersch's performances as Max Vandenburg and Rudy Steiner. Roger Allam provides the voiceover for Death and he does a great job too. Another thing that I loved about this film was the decision to have all of its actors, apart from Allam, speak in German accents. All of their accents sounded convincing to my ears and it made the story seem more authentic and real. I was watching The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas once when my brother walked in the room. He was really confused about all of the Nazis having English accents!

The film also boasts a truly gorgeous soundtrack from the legendary John Williams. The music in this film hit me right from the start and I especially love this song.

As an adaptation of the book I'd say that this film is fairly faithful although, as you'd expect from a 550 page novel, quite a few scenes from it are cut for time and there's significantly less of Death's narration. I didn't mind these things though. Film is a different medium to literature and I don't think this film would have worked at all if they'd used Death's narration as much as the book does! Also all of the major events and themes from the book are still kept in and I thought all of the actors in this film were great. I wouldn't call either the book or this adaptation "life-changing" but I do enjoy them both and I think that most of the die-hard fans of the book will really love this film. I can't think of anything else to add really.

Rating: 4/5
Film Certificate: 12


samara said...

The only omission I couldn't overlook was the book Max made for Liesel. That was SO significant to me and I missed it in the film.

But as you said, the film was superbly done!!

Ruby Danderfluff said...

This book and film have somehow flown completely under my radar, but this music! I'm not even one for movie soundtracks usually, but wow!

(Death's narration immediately shoots off echoes of Elizabeth; very interesting...)

Loved North and South. Might just have to check this one out, too!

By the by, I've tagged you for the Sunflower Award here:

Participate if you'd like! =)