By Maria Katafigioti (Athens, Greece)
I watched The Book Thief a while ago and I rated it 10/10, which I have only done something similar once in my life as a cinephile. The film is based on the novel of the Australian author, Markus Zusak. It takes place in the fictional town of Molching, Germany, near Munich, between 1939 and 1943 and Death narrates the story of Liesel Meminger, an orphan, who was adopted and survived the nazi regime, where at the time it rose in Germany.
Liesel loved books and through them she was shown the way to build real and meaningful relationships with all the people that came into her life, love them and becoming so powerful as to survive as a human being and not just a lifeless person whose soul was stolen because of all the atrocities the nazi regime has not only caused everywhere else, but to the Germans themselves.
Apart from Sophie Nelisse (Liesel) who is absolutely magnificent as an actress, I have to comment on the astounding job of Geoffrey Rush (Hans, Liesel’s step-father), Emily Watson (Rosa, Liesel’s step-mother), Ben Schnetzer (Max, Liesel’s Jewish friend), Nico Liersch (Rudy, Liesel’s neighbour and friend). The key in this movie, when you look either through the actors breath-taking performances or even outside of them, is to understand that the nazi state (there’s a reason I refuse to even write the word “nazi” with a capital N) affected different people in different ways.
Obviously, everyone knows what they did, what they’ve cost to the whole of the humanity. But, apparently not so many know, that despite the fact that for the majority of the German people, life was good and that is why they turned a blind eye to what they have done, there was this other part which never, or grown not to accept that regime and their life was horrific.
The movie ends with Death talking about how Liesel lived a long life in Sydney with her husband, three children, and many grandchildren but never forgotten and always kept in her heart the people that came into her life, in Molching, this was her entire family. When Death went to collect her, when she was old, they have talked as friends. He had shown her The Book Thief and he wanted to understand humans, because he couldn’t. He couldn’t understand how they can contain so much lightness and darkness at the same time. He doesn’t ask these things, though. All he can tell her is that humans haunt him.
Whenever I watch a film, there are always several scenes or words that stay in my mind, sometimes, maybe, speak in my heart. From this film, I will treasure two phrases, “I’m not lost to you, Liesel, you will always be able to find me in your words, that’s where I’ll live from now on.” and “While ten thousand souls hid their heads in fear and trembled, one Jew thanked God for the stars that blessed his eyes.”