A fuller review will come, let me simply say The Book Thief is one of the better movies I’ve seen. PLEASE – watch this for yourself – don’t let the critics guide you into missing a great film. It is a lyrical presentation of a time at war from a girl’s view who does not understand everything happening around her; she simply lives the life given to her. While the book is somewhat darker, it is presented in an almost fantasy form from within Germany – not from the outside with all of history to help shape your view.
Many reviewers pan it for being too sweet or not critical enough of Nazi Germany. First, that would be based on another book (here for more on the book). Second, that is not this story – this is life inside of German as a young girl not fully understanding all that was going on around her. That story is one that, apparently, cannot be told. We cannot know what it is like to live in the confusion and hate and love of the time, we must simply critique the evils of Nazi Germany. Evil it was, but would Liesel fully understand it? Must she hate Papa because he went to war when conscripted rather than protest and die? Is it terrible to approach this story as a ballet where images and color, people and place, movement and sound dance together that we may “picture it”. It is somehow wrong to write poetry about a girl’s sense of the time than a protest in prose to depict the Nazi boot.
Yes, we should have stood up to the Nazi rather than, at best acquiesce and stand by and, at worst, to believe the lie and persecute our neighbors with a yellow star. Read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship or see Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace to see one who did stand up. That is the model we should have taken. Bonhoeffer’s story is a good one; no less so for being historically true. That doesn’t mean that The Book Thief is an illegitimate one.
This move is beautifully done, faithful to the book (while there are differences) and contains the passion and care that so many reviewers find missing. Honestly, it is movement like these when I wonder if I am an alien or simply cannot see what they see. We saw two different movies: theirs was bland with saccharine on top; Mine was stunning and poignantly moving.