Monday, November 25, 2013

Coming to a theater near you: The Book Thief

Our marketing coordinator, Emily, previews the film adaptation of one of our book club’s favorite picks.

Liesel Meminger, the title character of Markus Zusak’s young adult novel The Book Thief, is good at keeping secrets, even when it involves hiding a young Jewish man and rescuing a book from being burned by the Nazis. 

Her captivating story has captured the hearts of millions across the globe, so it was only a  matter of time before the novel was optioned for the big screen. While it promises a large, built-in following, it is nonetheless a difficult story to capture on film. Zusak’s writing style is nothing short of unique, as the novel is narrated not by Liesel, but by Death. Having a disembodied narrator worked well for the novel, but it never would have had the same effect on screen. Consequently, director Brian Percival cut-back Death’s narration considerably. 

While this will disappoint some fans, the movie has a number of redeeming qualities. The cast, for one, is exemplary. Sophie Nélisse embodies the role of Liesel perfectly. The quick-fingered young girl is just as infinitely lovable on-screen as she was in print. Nico Liersch, similarly, brings to life Rudy Steiner, Liesel’s love-struck, Jesse Owens-obsessed best friend. The cast also includes seasoned film stars Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, who play Liesel’s foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. While the film explores dark themes, there are lighter moments of comedy that come from the way Rush and Watson portray the unusual, miss-matched couple.

Ben Schnetzer, who plays Max, the young Jewish man in hiding, is relatively new to acting, and yet he holds his own against Rush and Watson, and is the perfect older-brother figure to Nélisse’s Liesel. He also delivers one of the more memorable lines in the film: “Words are life, Liesel. All those pages, they’re for you to fill.”

 The film lacks some of the depth of Zusak’s novel, but it would be impossible to condense a nearly 600 page book into a two and a half hour film without glossing over certain points. There are a number of heart-wrenching moments in the film, and you can’t help but fall in love with Zusak’s characters all over again. Like the book, the film speaks volumes about the power of words and the durability of the human spirit. It is currently playing in select theaters in the city, and will be opening in theaters everywhere on November 27.

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

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