The Reader didn’t make it to the top of the podium, but this doesn’t mean it is a movie that should be ignored. On the contrary, it’s a motion picture that every person who is interested in the complexity of the human psyche must definitely watch.
It tells the story of a 16-years-old boy (David Kross), who one day, on his way back from school, feels very sick and stops in front of a house to pull himself together. Here he meets a middle-aged ticket taker (Kate Winslet), who is willing to walk him back home in order to be sure that he will be safe. A few months later, the boy brings her a bucket of flowers as a sign of gratitude. But there is more than thankfulness. There is a strong connection between their looks that rapidly unleashes a series of provocative and full and sensuality scenes between the two characters.
But despite their passionate physical approaches, she tries to keep things at a certain distance when they are not in bed, and asks the ‘kid’ to read her famous novels. In fact, they introduce themselves only after two or three ‘intimate meetings’; this shows the superficiality of the initial relationship between Hanna and Michael, from which he gets his initiation into the fun and frolic adulthood, and she gets her first lover in years.
But Hanna has an odd and mysterious character, which explains her decision of vanishing after he gets promoted; in fact, she tells us that her love for the ‘kid’ cannot reach its climax unless it remains ephemeral. So, after an energetic and full-of-nudity beginning, which permanently damages the boy’s way of thinking, the movie degenerates into a passive rumination, without suspense or revelation.
Eight years later, as a law student, Michael enters a courtroom and discovers Hanna in a group of Nazi female guards being tried for murder. Without knowing how he should feel, Michael passively attends the trial until he finds out that the supreme judge accuses Hanna of having written a report which reveals the truth about the Holocaust crimes. In this moment, the boy, through a series of connections between some moments from his past, figures out that the woman he used to love was illiterate, a piece of evidence that could save her from receiving a lifetime prison sentence. The young law student is torn between protecting Hanna and recoiling from the horror of her earlier deeds. His conversations with professor Rohl (Bruno Ganz) help him decide not to forgive Hanna’s crimes, despite of being emotionally devastated by his choice.
A few years later, we can see the adult Michael (Ralph Fiennes), a cold enigmatic person who has sentenced himself to an isolate existence, as he has never recovered from the wound he received from Hanna. The moment when he pays Hanna a visit at the prison and she calls him ‘kid’ is so forceful that invites the audience to stop and think for a moment about love, hate and time.
The most noticeable flaw of the movie is the clumsiness with which the temporal jumps are being made; the spectator can get lost easily, and this is one of the biggest mistakes a filmmaker can make. But this defect is compensated by the smoothness and force of the motion picture, which raises thorny questions about the nature of evil and how sin can be contagious. All in all, The Reader is a tale of romance, redemption and moral dilemmas suffered by one man because, at a vulnerable time of his life, felt in love with the wrong person.