There are very few films that befit this Martin Scorsese’s quote about cinema “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out." They adapt very well to what’s in the frame and what’s outside. They possess the ability to stir human emotions and leave them in the awe of the filmmaker’s adeptness. For a bibliophile, a film like “The Book Thief” will mean a lot, although, those with a sensitive heart will also fall in love with the film.
Based on the novel by same name, by Markus Zusak, the film captures the essence of the Fuhrer’s Germany and is a tale told with competence. Set in terror stricken, gravelled streets of Germany, the film revolves around the character of a book thief and her hunger for learning, reading, books and thus, for knowledge. Leslie Meminger (Sophie Nelisse) owing to unspoken circumstances is given away to The Hubermann’s, who become her foster parents. A 12 or so year old child has seen death’s hand strike and jab at her from the very beginning. She is, therefore, an invincible and a mature soul. She adapts herself to the Hubermann lifestyle that comprises a caring father, Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush), and a nagging mother, Rosa Hubermann (Emily Watson). She meets a boy next door who becomes her dear friend, Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch). Steiner’s insistence that Leslie kiss him makes up for a beautiful unspoken, unrequited love tale. The film takes us through the war zone giving us the taste of dread and death. It entices us with the beauty of innocence and childhood. The interior monologue of the child is more enthralling. Her attempts to read begins from the book she steals during the burial ceremony of her deceased brother, the book called ”Grave Digger’s Handbook”. Her journey through the musty pages of life’s book makes the tale endearing and magnificent.
The tempo of the story is maintained throughout. Characters in the film have given an exquisitely brilliant performance. Each character moulds Leslie’s life, in one way or the other. Her pesky mumma, her loving father, her annoying friend Rudy or the Jew man trapped in the basement of her house, Max Vanderburg (Ben Schnetzer) , who becomes her inspiration and her best friend for life. The film is predictable, to a certain extent, but then there are "oh those" moments that we all can call a "hair-raising" experience! It has its moments of fun and merriment. And then, there are those that fill you with vehemence. Accompanied with strong performances, the film gifts viewers with beautiful lessons for life! When Leslie asks Max, “What did he do so wrong?”, Max replies, “He reminded people of their humanity!” or when Rudy says to Leslie, “ I want to grow up before I die!”; the audience will certainly feel the sting of the words. The twinge that people must’ve felt during those testing times. It certainly is a tale when the world went mad, as Max puts it!
Although, you may find something amiss here and there, a heartbreaking climax leaves us in tears. The film comes out as breathtaking, wonderful and incredible. It offers us hope and faith. And when death says it is haunted by humans, you know the film does have an enchanting story to tell.
P.S: Every piece of work speaks of a writer’s individuality which is perceptibly unique. Let’s not compare this one with works of other authors/ auteur. It is inimitable in its own sweet way.