Movie Review: The Book Thief

For my review of Marcus Zusak’s novel, click here.

I probably don’t need to remind my regular readers that I loved the novel, The Book Thief. After all, at the time of writing, it is only three days since I published that post. I had some free time this afternoon, so my Mum (who read the book a few days before I did) and I went to see the movie.

The story is basically the same as the novel. On the cusp of World War II, Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse) is deposited with foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) in the small German town of Molching. She is immediately befriended by next door neighbour Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch), in spite of the fact that their classmates consider her a ‘dummkopf’ due to her inability to read. Hans works hard to help her overcome this difficulty, and in doing so opens her eyes to the power of words. Several months later, a Jewish refugee, Max (Ben Schnetzer) arrives on the Hubermann doorstep begging for sanctuary. As Max’s father sacrificed his life for Hans in the First World War, the Hubermanns feel they cannot refuse…

Yes, the story is basically the same, but the film-makers have made a lot of minor changes:

  • Liesel came to Molching a whole year earlier in the film version, perhaps so she could be present for events which she was only told about later in the book.
  • Several minor characters were omitted or merged.
  • Several incidents from the book were omitted, merged or referred to only in passing, rather than seen in their true context. This also led to several incidents occurring in a different order to that in the book.

That said, the interior of the Hubermann’s home was exactly as I imagined it, as were most of the other backgrounds/sets. The acting was also superb, and the characters were very much as described in the novel. I think that had the movie adhered more closely to the book, it would have added at least another hour to the running time, which, given the subject matter, may have been hard to swallow for some.

I certainly enjoyed The Book Thief, but perhaps not quite as much as the book. If you want to experience the full richness of the world Zusak created, read the novel first.

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