The Book Thief (12 A)

Directed by Brian Percival
Starring Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Ben Snetzer, Nico Liersh, Roger Allan
From 3rd March 2014

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

It Couldn't Happen Again, Could It?

Mid-1930s Germany and it's not the place to be if you are Jewish, a communist or have the wrong complexion. Hitler has the Nazis in full flow and the last thing they want is Jesse Owens leaving everyone for dead in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.The Grim Reaper himself, (Allan) is on hand to narrate, at nauseating length, about his own next conquests.

Nine-year-old Liesel Meninger (Nelisse) is being transported across country by train and on the way loses both mother and younger brother forever, before arriving to become the proxy child of, (more grandparents than parents), Hans (Rush) and Rosa Hubermann (Watson). Naturally she is reticent to fully partake of her new role but papa takes to her more sympathetically than mama and starts teaching her to read. In class she befriends blond haired, blue-eyed Rudi( Liersh) and as Kristallnacht breaks out both are singing in full Nazi insignia in the full school choir.

An old promise is called in when on the run Max (Snetzer) turns up in the middle of the night - a jew needing shelter, which is duly provided in the cellar. Meanwhile Liesel rescues H G Wells' 'The Invisible Man' from a stage managed degenerate book burning. Rudi is castigated for painting his face black when emulating his hero; being young and naive is out in Germany now.

War is declared and as British bombers stage night raids reclusive Max is left alone above ground to enjoy the night sky as the net tightens on the wrong people in town. Liesel's role as the book thief is enhanced when she is sent to the Landburgher's house with some ironing and she sees a way to be kept in books and of keeping Max alive.

Meanwhile Death keeps toting up his numbers as the War is lived out in a frenzy of killing, puppy love intrigues and eventual realisation that Max must leave to save his minders. One night the sirens do not sound and the air raid shelter is empty and off- target bombs decimate most of the cast in their beds.

Who will survive?

Director Percival's 131 minute screenplay is ultimately too long, despite being nice on the eye and John Williams' understated score added to the sense of something lacking. As always Death won the day.

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