Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
The Book Thief (2013) from Twentieth Century Fox
Rated PG-13. Drama, Historical, War
My rating: ★★★1/2
Description (from the film case): Based on the beloved best-selling book comes an “extremely moving” (Leonard Maltin, Indiewire) story of a girl who transforms the lives of those around her during World War II, Germany. When her mother can no longer care for her, Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) is adopted by a German couple (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.) Although she arrives illiterate, Liesel is encouraged to learn to read by her adoptive father. When the couple then takes in Max (Ben Schnetzer), a Jew hiding from Hitler’s army, Liesel befriends him. Ultimately, words and imagination provide the friends with an escape from the events unfolding around them…
My thoughts: A pretty good adaptation with some nice casting. Though it isn’t a happy-go-lucky tale, of course, it’s somewhat brighter and tamer than the novel, in a way, with almost a storybook feel to some of it.
I would’ve liked to hear a little more from Death in the film, but maybe from a different voice, as Death’s occasional narration is part of what feels storybookish. And some of the potential power is lost here as the story doesn’t convey both sides of the “power of words” theme as well as the novel does.
Nevertheless, I try not to base my judgment of film adaptations solely on their related novels, since, to state the obvious, films aren’t books. Can’t measure such different mediums with the same stick.
Hence, as a film, I give it a thumbs-up. Not sure yet if I’d watch it again, but watching it was worth it.
My corresponding reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.