The Book Thief

 

20th Century Fox

 

Rating: PG-13

 

Reason for the Rating: Some violence and intense depiction of thematic material.

 

Plot Summary: A young girl experiences many hardships in wartime Germany, and changes the lives of everyone she meets.

 

PopFam Recommends: The Book Thief is a significant story that should be seen by teens and parents alike.

 

Let me just start by saying that typically I don’t like to see movies when I’ve already read the book, and so my expectations for The Book Thief were not terribly high. But, surprisingly, instead of spending the movie thinking, “That didn’t happen in the book,” or “I can’t believe they changed that” I found myself submersed in the lives of Liesel (Sophie Nelisse), Hans (Geoffrey Rush), Rosa (Emily Watson), and Rudy (Nico Liersch).

 

If you haven’t read this novel, the thief of books is Liesel Meminger, a young German girl whose Communist mother sends her away for safety in the late 1930s. Liesel finds herself at the cozy home of Hans and Rosa Hubermann, a sweet older man and his cranky wife. While Rosa is strict and sharp, Hans is soft and welcoming. He calls Liesel “Your Majesty” and gives her knowing looks when Rosa is being especially cantankerous. When he realizes Liesel can’t read, he teaches her from a book she stole at her brother’s funeral, and turns their basement into a dictionary—a place where she can chalk all the new words she learns on the walls.

 

Although Liesel lives with the Hubermann’s for several years, she continues to hold out hope that her mother will return for her, until she attends a book burning in the town square. There, the class bully taunts her for having a Communist mother. Liesel stays at the burning until everyone else has left to ponder the implications of his words. It’s there that she steals her second book, The Invisible Man, a secret she and Hans share and enjoy together. Shortly after this incident, the Hubermann’s have their own invisible man come to stay. Max, a young Jewish man, appears on their doorstep, needing a safe place to stay. This secret boarder draws Rosa and Liesel together, and binds them with a secret no one can know. Not even Rudy, Liesel’s best friend and neighbor. Rudy has loved Liesel from the moment he saw her, racing her every day in the hopes of a kiss.

 

It’s Rudy who also keeps Liesel’s other secret.

 

She’s covertly sneaking into the Buergmeister’s house and “borrowing” books from his library. She really is borrowing them, but not with permission. While all this is going on, WWII is raging. Fathers and sons are being conscripted into the war, cities are being bombed, food is in short supply, and Jews are being marched through town. The world has been turned upside-down, but Liesel brings light and hope to those around her.

 

Everything about this movie is beautiful. The acting, especially by Geoffrey Rush and newcomer Sophie Nelisse, is flawless. The costuming is perfect and the cinematography is spectacular. Add to all that characters with depth and a profound story...what more could you ask? This isn’t a movie to see and leave on the screen. It’s a movie that will follow you into your life and around your home, asking questions about family, friendships, and death itself.

 

Because of the harsh material covered in the movie, this is not a film for young children, as they simply wouldn’t understand the complex relationships of war, prejudice, and death. Everyone else—ages 13 and up should go see this movie. It will steal your heart.

 

Let’s Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:

 

• Death had some insight into each person he took. What do you think Death will say about you?

 

• Hans, Rosa, and Rudy gave Liesel hope, which she passed on to Max. Tell about someone who changed your life by their actions or words.

 

• The Book Thief has strong themes of life and death, yet interestingly doesn’t mention God or the hope He brings. Why is it easier to accept the voice of Death than the idea of God being in control of life and death? Explain.

 

--JW

 

Tags: The Book Thief,WWII,World War II,Holocaust,Liesel Meminger,Hans Hubermann,Hans and Rosa Hubermann,Geoffrey Rush,Sophie Nelisse,EmilyWatson,Brian Percival,Markus Zusak

 

Note: All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.

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