Film Review: The Book Thief
There is always an air of uneasiness when walking into an adaptation of a novel that you thoroughly enjoy. You sit down in the chair waiting to see if the filmmakers have done a good job or not. The lights dim down, the screen illuminates and all expectations either shatter like broken dreams or fortify like a rising wall. And in the case of Brian Percival’s adaptation of Markus Zuzak’s wonderful YA WWII novel The Book Thief, the dreams shattered.
When The Book Thief was required reading for me in high school I looked at it as just another boring historical WWII novel. Upon tearing through the pages I realized that I loved the book because of Zuzak’s beautiful and creative story telling and rich characters. I was dreaming for a film adaptation from as soon as I put the book down, and now I finally got one.
The novel lost most if not all of its darkness in exchange for a familial lightness just to attract a wider and younger audience. To create a Holocaust drama that glosses over all of the actual pain and agony that took place during that time is quite frankly insulting. Unfortunately that is what happens when a movie is so clearly made for box office potential rather than genuine authenticity.
The actors chosen include the typically whimsical Geoffrey Rush, the matriarchal Emily Watson and the young Sophie Nelisse. They create a charming family feeling in the film but that is where the problems stem. The film is too happy. For a story about a girl who is orphaned and must live with a new mother who disapproves of her, a new father who is eventually shipped off to fight even though he is aging, and not to mention they must hide a Jew in the basement during one of the darkest and inhumane times in human history, the filmmakers decided to play up the near Christmas release date. The filmmakers created a movie with too much lightness and not enough impact and darkness.
If you have not read the book and are just a sucker for bland familial Christmas time sentimentality, you would most likely sit through this movie and enjoy it. However, if you are a fan of the book and are looking for a true and faithful adaptation, turn away.