Title: The Book Thief (Official Site)
Tag Line: Courage beyond words.
Release Date: 08 Nov 2013
Runtime: 130 min
Genres: Drama | War
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Where Seen: Theater (screening)
Production Company: Fox 2000 Pictures
Distributed By: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Director(s): Brian Percival
Writer(s): Markus Zusak (novel), Michael Petroni (adaptation)
Stars: Sophie Nélisse (Liesel Meminger), Geoffrey Rush (Hans Huberman), Emily Watson (Rosa Huberman), Ben Schnetzer (Max Vandenburg), Nico Liersch (Rudy Steiner), Roger Allam (Death)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (my review) is one of my all time favorite books. Its a story that made me ugly cry and one that has really stayed with me over the years. So when I heard that Hollywood was going to turn this beloved story into a movie I was worried. Sitting in the theatre waiting for the film to start I was a bundle of nerves as Hollywood usually doesn’t have the best track record with book to movie adaptations and as I said this is a book that I love beyond words.
During the opening moments I let out a sigh of relief as one of the best and most unique of characters in the book was present, that of the narrator, Death. For me, there would be no Book Thief without this narrator and while I liked Roger Allam in other things he’s done I don’t think he was the right fit for this movie. Death has such a strong voice in the book that Allam never quite captured. Although this could be due to the fact that they really under-utilized Death in the movie. I also don’t think he was ever named as such and so if you haven’t read the book then you might miss this key point. And since Death wasn’t in the movie as much as in the book some of my favorite lines were missing.
The lack of narration was missed but the other cast members really took up the slack and brought the characters to life. Sophie Nélisse was the perfect Liesel all wide-eyed and curious. She had such great onscreen chemistry that it was hard to look away. Nico Liersch as Rudy was so adorable, he too was the perfect choice for this role and he’ll make the viewer laugh and cry. Liersch and Nélisse really mesh well on screen and I loved all of their scenes together. As expected, Geoffrey Rush is outstanding as Hans Huberman but it was Emily Watson as Rosa that would steal the show. She plays that thunderstorm of a character so amazingly well that I hope she earns some sort of nomination for it.
As with all book to movie adaptations, there were changes to the movie. Some events and characters were cut out or minimized but all the key moments in the book where there. John Williams does a fabulous job with the musical score though I don’t think its one of his strongest works. For me, there was just enough missing – be it the lack of narration, the score, or the things that were cut out – that I didn’t fall head over heels with this story. I didn’t ugly cry as I did with the book although I did tear up a little. There was just not as much heart in the movie as there was in the book and I think by not having as much narration that some of what makes the book so great is lost. This is just my thoughts though as there was someone behind me who totally ugly cried and looking around the theatre there were few dry eyes at the end.
The book had this magical prose that made you get lost in the words and while I did become immersed in the movie it just wasn’t the same. I don’t regret watching the movie though and it is among my favorites viewed this year. As a book to movie adaptation I think that Hollywood did a good job and now I am itching to read the book again. Last night, after I came home from the cinema I dug out my copy and flipped through it re-reading some of my favorite scenes and was pleased how certain ones were brought to life on screen.
My Recommendation: Totally worth seeing on the big screen if you are a fan of the book.