The Reader (2008)

R   |    |  Drama, Romance

The Reader (2008) Poster

Post-WWII Germany: Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Berg re-encounters his former lover as she defends herself in a war-crime trial.


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20 June 2009 | swillsqueal
| Why didn't you speak up?
"Every single day -- 365 days a year -- an attack against children occurs that is 10 times greater than the death toll from the World Trade Center...We know how to prevent these deaths -- we have the biological knowledge and tools to stop this public health travesty, but we're not yet doing it." Jean-Pierre Habicht, professor of epidemiology and nutritional sciences at Cornell.

Eight million of the eleven million childhood deaths a year could easily be prevented. That's because almost 60 percent of deaths of children under 5 in the developing world are due to malnutrition and its interactive effects on preventable diseases. Is this not a holocaust?

An old Soviet piece of gossip had it that Comrade Khruschev was interrupted during his famous 'secret' speech before the Communist Party elite when he denounced Stalin's crimes in 1956, three years after Stalin's death. A voice from the audience shouted, "Why didn't you speak out against these crimes when Comrade Stalin was committing them?" Khruschev looked up from his speech and asked loudly, "Who said that?" A long silence ensued after which Khruschev observed, "That is why."

When you see "The Reader", ask yourself why you are doing nothing about the holocaust which is happening every year to the poorest children of the world. Is it because you are afraid to be seen as being 'silly' or too 'socialist' or 'soft hearted' or because the system demands that you pay attention to the important things of life like obeying your bosses and keeping order and besides, "What can a lowly person like myself do about the situation" and you're too busy speculating on what the real estate market will be doing in the coming months and finding a pair of jeans at Jeans West which will fit.....

Michael meets Hanna when he is fifteen. Unbeknownst to Michael, he is coming down with scarlet fever. He is throwing up in an alley on a very rainy day when Hanna, the tram conductor, stops to offer him a warm place to rest until he feels better. Hanna also cleans up his vomit from the pavement. Hanna believes in orderliness and cleanliness. This penchant for order is apparent from the beginning of their relationship and these traits lead her to offer Michael baths and to bathe herself as well and as the movie progresses the motherly Hanna and her son-like friend begin to explore the attractions which flow from such erotic circumstances.

Both Hanna and Michael are full of hidden passions. Michael could have been a Heydrich in Prague, had he been born 15 years earlier. He is clearly 'officer material'. Hanna, on the other hand, is a working class woman born 30 years earlier into a society which would tell women that their highest aspirations could be fulfilled by staying in the kitchen with the children when they weren't engaged in taking in a church service. with the family. Education was unnecessary. Both Hanna and Michael are intelligent and attractive. Both are turned on by the doors which are opened to them by great literature. Both are also social products of their own German culture, with its various and sundry facets of puritanical, psychological repression, including a kind of reserve which leads to the peculiarly German goodness of keeping one's mouth shut in public about things political, things which the authorities have well in hand. Hanna's fear of exposing her own illiteracy and Michael's fear of public condemnation as a young law student at speaking up for Hanna in a court of law are the stuff of tragedy.

Sound familiar?

Even after many steamy sexual encounters, Hanna is shocked by passages in D.H. Lawrence's LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER, telling Michael that it is the equivalent of smut and that he should stop reading from it, almost as his mother would have. But clearly, Michael is not attracted to Hanna because she is a mother replica--Oedipus, no. One has only to compare and contrast Michael's screen mother with Kate Winslett's Hanna to know that.

However, it is 'klip und klar' that Hanna loves Michael and he loves her but, unbeknownst to them both when they are together, their love runs very, very deeply. They might believe that they will get over their summertime romance as time goes by, but the reality is that such love does not die, no matter what happens: there are no conditions for it.

There are elements of Fassbinder's "Ali, Fear Eats the Heart" and "Berlin Alexanderplatz" in "The Reader". "Sophie's Choice" also comes to mind. See this movie and be prepared to cry for humanity because as Thoreau observed, ""Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." Methnks this is especially so in cultures as deeply built on the authoritarian personality character structure as the German one is.

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Release Date:

30 January 2009


English, German, Greek, Latin

Country of Origin

Germany, USA

Filming Locations


Box Office


$32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$168,051 14 December 2008

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:


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