By Erin Passons (Austin, Texas)
The Book Thief is by far away one of the best books I’ve ever read.
I wrote the above statement without any colorful hooks because it doesn’t any. Some truths need only their truth to express their greatness.
I’ve expressed in the past my fear of turning The Book Thief into a movie. My fears were realized when my father called me, weeping, announcing that The Book Thief was one of the best movies he’d ever seen. Now, I love my father, but Owen Gleiberman he is not, and in the past I have used his positive movie reviews as the definitive list on what to avoid at the cinemaplex.
But I found that I couldn’t pass up the chance to see one of literary’s greatest modern-day masterpieces adopted to film, and here’s why: when my two favorite actors, Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush, who play parents of the title character (played by wide-eyed 13-year-old Sophie Nélisse), are together for the first time – why, for me it’s the cinematic equivalent of mint and chocolate.
But how can a film, adopted from a book told from the POV of the Grim Reaper himself, so passionately capture the gorgeous language of the book without boring the hell out of the viewer? Not very well, it would seem. The producers were kind enough to give death a voice, but he (Roger Allam) isn’t very effective. You feel as if he should be narrating Lemony Snicket’s. He reads off each miraculous snippet from the book with a tone of ironic amusement, completely juxtaposing the real story’s theme.
The cinematography is beautiful (one can easily get lost in the snow), but you never really get away from the feeling that you’re watching a very elaborate set filled with actors who are…well, acting.