The Book Thief, film review: Dark material but this film plays like a typical coming-of-age story
(12A) Brian Percival, 133 mins Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, Ben Schnetzer, Nico Liersch
The Book Thief is a handsomely mounted but strangely pitched adaptation of Markus Zusak's 2005 novel about a young girl in Nazi Germany. The accents grate. Dialogue here is delivered in English but with a Germanic twang and a few German words ("nein!") thrown into the mix. Much of the material is very dark indeed but even against the backcloth of the Holocaust, the film plays like a typical coming-of-age story.
Our narrator is Death himself, voiced by the well-spoken (and non-Germanic) Roger Allam. He is looking down from above the clouds on the trials of the young protagonists. Sophie Nélisse is very impressive as the youthful heroine Liesel Meminger, who at the beginning of the film loses her beloved brother and is given up to impoverished foster parents (Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush).
Nélisse brings both a cutesy quality (reminiscent of Millie Perkins in The Diary of Anne Frank) and a toughness to her role as the book-loving child bemused by the violence around her. Watson clucks and scolds as her stepmother, sometimes coming close to caricature as she frets over the laundry or twists little Liesel's ear, but ultimately giving the character an emotional depth. Rush is effective, too, as the accordion-playing, kind-hearted stepdad who takes in a Jewish refugee as part of a pledge he made to an old soldier colleague.
The film-making style seems disconcertingly glossy given the downbeat themes. There is picturesque imagery of steam-belching trains crossing snowy landscapes and of kids playing in the streets. We see beatific- looking children singing in school choirs even as Nazis are smashing windows and burning books in the streets nearby. The swirling John Williams score and unabashed sentimentality don't help a film that would surely have benefitted from taking a tougher approach.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Rashida Jones speaks out against male-centric porn saying 'women should have sex and feel good about it'
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
The secret joke hidden in Silence of the Lambs' most famous line
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures