Director – Brian Percival
Released – February 2014
In a very similar way to Jojo Rabbit, here we have a movie that relies a lot on its charm to succeed and despite my usual cynicism towards films that follow this route, The Book Thief overcame my doubts and provide me with entertainment.
True it’s very similar to Jojo Rabbit in the way it portrays war-time Germany in a somewhat fairytale manner, complete with the usual WWII movie cliches including the Jew hiding out in the protagonist’s home, shots of book-burning and an almost sanitised settings devoid of all the horrors of war, but rather than being a disadvantage to the movie, here these things are made into an advantage, doubling down on the idealised view of the world as seen through child’s eyes. Or Deaths in some places.
I must admit that I haven’t read the book that the film is based on and can’t comment on the quality of the adaptation, however, what I can say is The Book Thief may entertain but isn’t the most original war-time film you’ll ever experience, the progression of the main character is pretty much exactly how you would expect, even including twists dotted throughout and use of Death as the narrator which from what I’ve heard works quite well in the book but here doesn’t really as it’s almost forgotten about for long periods of the movie.
However, being a little predictable doesn’t always make for a poor film. As I mentioned above, there is entertainment here to be had, a good proportion of which should be owed to the performances of Nelisse as Liesel, along with Rush and Watson as her foster parents, and Schnetzer as Max. None of which put a step wrong and manage to make some rather clunky dialogue seem natural.
Overall, The Book Thief feels at times a little traditional in its approach, however, remains a refreshingly optimistic, compelling and beautiful look at growing up in wartime Germany, providing us with a picture of hope and more than a couple touching moments.