Monday, August 17, 2015

Book to Movie 2. The Book Thief

This is a new little series on this blog, where I read a book and watch the movie based on it, then review, compare, and contrast! This time I'm doing The Book Thief.

The Book Thief   

Book: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Pages: 550
Published: March 14th, 2006

Synopsis: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ +

"I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I had made them right."

I have just finished reading The Book Thief for the second time (necessary so I can write an essay for school), and I stand by believing it is one of the most heartbreaking and bittersweet novels I have ever had the honor of reading. Few books make me cry, let alone make me cry during a re-read. The novel tells the story of Liesel, a young girl living with her foster parents in Nazi Germany. Liesel's war experience is made up entirely of resistance, stealing books from book burnings and libraries and hiding a Jew in her basement. It's a book about tragedy and luck, telling how even in times and places of darkness, there are still good people.

One of the best things about this novel was it's narrator: Death. Zusak took a bit of a gamble with this choice, but I (and pretty much everyone else whose read it) loved it. Death is constantly interjecting with his thoughts and stories, telling you what happened to characters the protagonist, Liesel, parts ways with. Death gives this wholly new perspective to Liesel's story, and you can tell although he's distant from humans, he still feels for them.

One part of the book I found very interesting was Liesel's transition with family figures. Hans and Rosa replace her birth parents when they adopt her, but the Jew they hide, Max, replaces her dead brother. Even Liesel's reoccurring dreams about her brother start starring Max when she starts feeling very worried about him. Max also takes over the role as Rosa and Han's son when their real son abandons the family when he feels they aren't loyal enough to the Nazi party.

A million reviewers have gushed over this novel already, so I'll go watch the movie and come back with that.

Movie: The Book Thief
Director: Brian Percival
Run Time: 2h 11m
Release Date: November 27th, 2013
Stars:  Sophie NĂ©lisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson
Rated: PG-13

Synopsis: While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. In the basement of her home, a Jewish refugee is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.

★ ★ ★  ☆

It's an odd feeling to have a book you love turn into a movie. You see all the faces and rooms clearly for the first time, your vague conceptions of appearance tossed aside for something else. I pictured Himmel Street wider, and the library colder. I thought Max was larger, Hans was younger, and Liesel was darker. Not that this is a bad thing. Max was totally different than how I pictured him, but I love that I now have faces to put to the characters.

The movie, as a whole, stayed very true to the book (which always makes a reader happy). The changes made were very small, at least compared to what some adaptations do. My one real complaint with the film is the fact that I didn't feel as strongly for anything as I did in the book. I found the book so tragic and heartbreaking, but the movie relationships seemed too rushed. (highlight for spoiler) When Rudy died at the end, I didn't feel even close to how upset I was reading. Also, the whole "Rudy dying before he could say his last words" thing felt over dramatic. Just no. It had so much more of an impact when Liesel found Rudy. When she held him in her arms begging him to wake up I cried. When he died in her arms, it felt forced. And then she moved on, and I felt nothing for Rudy. I wish the movie narrowed in on one or two of the relationships more so I could feel more attached to their outcomes. The relationship I did feel the most attached to was between Max and Liesel, which drew most of the attention, but even then I didn't really care what happened.

Also, Death (who I stated I loved so much), barely made an appearance. He narrated a minute here or there, but his injections and details that I loved so much in the book did not exist. How can you make a film and act like the book's narrator never even existed, except for a few lines at the beginning and end?

Even though I'm complaining, I did enjoy some parts the movie. The actress who played Liesel did a fantastic job playing the wide-eyed girl transitioning from a carefree child to a young adult with responsibilities. There were some powerful images (as to be expected from a World War 2 film).  I'd recommend the film to people who generally liked the book. It was just a bit underwhelming, for someone who loved the book as much as me.


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