Many movie adaptations of World War II feature the point of view of the Jewish victim, but The Book Thief tells a heart-wrenching story of a young German girl, Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), and as she struggles with the historical nightmare occurring in her German town.
Starting in the late 1930s into the mid-1940s, Liesel Meminger is adopted by Hans and Rosa Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) where she is soon enticed by a book she previously discovered at her brother’s gravesite. Her new father, Hans, helps the young girl with reading and writing, which leads to her hunger for a better sense of knowledge. While adjusting to her new life, Liesel befriends the boy with “hair the color of a lemon,” Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch); the couple becomes inseparable, even when a secret comes between them. Throughout the rest of the film, Leisel strives for excellence until her life comes crashing down upon her.
The story of The Book Thief is unlike any other; the narrator is an unexpected figure who overlooks the tragedy. This eerie narrator is Death (Roger Allam), and he consistently converses at the most unfortunate times. He offers the viewer a sense of eeriness, but there is also comfort found in his words.
Another contributor to the movie is the beautifully dismal music that compliments each scene. John Williams, the composer, who wrote the score for films such as Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Star Wars, won a Grammy for his compositions in this feature. Even Hans’ accordion playing is a contributor to each scene; Rush learned how to play the accordion because he knew how important the instrument was to the movie, as well as his character. The music within The Book Thief is appropriate throughout, and it sets the emotional tone towards each scene.
The story’s narrator and musical score are not the only outstanding parts in this film. Sophie Nélisse and Nico Liersch offer nothing short of excellence, displaying the innocence of children during this time. Nélisse’s character follows the set societal rules, and never really questions it because all she wants is to expand her knowledge. These two actors were not the only ones committed to their characters; during filming, Emily Watson would stay in character all day to portray the true picture of a volatile Nazi woman, which then gave the movie a true feel of Nazi dedication at this time. In addition, Watson, Nélisse, Rush, and Ben Schnetzer (Max) went through speech training because they did not have an authentic German accent. The actors in this movie went above and beyond to present this time period as well as they could, and they do not disappoint.
The historically accurate portrayal of Nazi Germany adds to the gloom of war scenes. From the shocking scene in the classroom to the airstrike center to even the smallest details, such as, the appliances, The Book Thief stays true to the occurrences of the war-torn country in the 1930’s through 1940’s. The bright red Nazi flag in contrast with the pale, snowy scenery is stunning and chilling at the same time. This movie correctly displays historical events, the most important one being the night of Kristallnacht and the burning of Jewish books. One memorable scene is the snowball fight between Mr. and Mrs. Hubermann, Liesel, and Max; it is lighthearted and cheerful despite the ongoing war.
Overall, this movie is a cinematic masterpiece that evokes a range of emotions from happiness to heartache, and one could not leave the movie without shedding a tear. This movie is also a great learning experience for all ages; however, beware of the haunting memories that come with it.