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The Book Thief

by Louise Adams
Friday Mar 28, 2014
The Book Thief

"The Book Thief" is like Anne Frank's diary, but composed from a communist German rather than a Dutch Jew point of view.

"Downton Abbey" director Brian Percival helms Michael Petroni's adaptation based on Aussie Markus Zusak's young adult novel, where Death (Roger Allam's voiceover) narrates a girl's eye view of World War II from within the Fatherland. "I am haunted by humans," he says.

Adolescent Liesel's (poised and charismatic Montréal gymnast Sophie Nélisse) first purloined tome is "The Gravediggers Handbook," which she retrieves from her younger brother's burial.

The pair was on their way to be adopted by new mama Rosa, "like a thunderstorm, always rumbling," and sweet papa Hans (Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush), who live in a small burg outside Munich on Himmelstrasse, Heaven Street. Not quite. It's 1938, on the eve of Kristallnacht, where Hitler is ascendant and times are tough.

"You are going to die. No one lives forever. When the time comes, don’t panic. It doesn’t seem to help."

Illiterate Liesel is teased as a dummkopf at her new school, but is befriended by Aryan yet sweet Rudy (Nico Liersch). Another book, H.G. Wells "The Invisible Man," is pinched from the remnants of a book burning after the assembled townspeople sing "Deutschland über alles." The "Bringing the Past to Life" Blu-ray feature talks about the difficulty in hanging so many swastika banners for this scene, as the symbol is forbidden in Germany. Throughout the war, Liesel borrows books and also starts to write her own diary.

"A Hidden Truth: Bringing 'The Book Thief' to Life" includes Zusak's recollections of his German aunts' stories in which "humans could be beautiful even in the ugliest times." John Williams gentle score is outlined in "The Legend and the Music," where the legendary film composer says he was drawn to the project because "words offer solace and immortality."

Yet Death wryly reminds viewers that "You are going to die. No one lives forever. When the time comes, don't panic. It doesn't seem to help."

"The Book Thief"

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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