April 23, 2021

Movie and Book: The Book Thief

Adaptations of successful books can go horribly awry, but the movie version of “The Book Thief,” directed by Brian Percival does the original novel justice.

The book was marketed as a Young Adult work, but has remained on best-selling lists for all ages since its 2005 publishing debut. Written by Australian Markus Zusak, the story is set in Nazi Germany with Death as the narrator. The main character is a young girl who is placed with foster parents after her mother is taken away and her brother dies. Her new family ends up hiding a young Jewish man who befriends our book-loving heroine. She starts stealing books from the mayor’s home library and shares them with her family’s secret guest. The setting and circumstances are dark but the story remains an uplifting account of a group of people who make the most of a very dire situation.

The movie benefits from stellar performances by Sophie Nelisse as the orphan “book thief,” Geoffrey Rush as her foster father, Hans Hubermann, Emily Watson as his gruff wife Rosa and Ben Schnetzer as the Jewish refugee Max Vandenburg. Roger Allam of “Game of Thrones” renown does the voice-over for Death. The lovely movie soundtrack is by noted film composer John Williams, marking the first time since 2005 that Williams has done a score for someone other than Spielberg. If you are game, read the engaging book and then catch the equally fine movie. Both deserve high praise.

I watched the film as a DVD rental from Netflix but it’s also being carried on cable networks this fall.

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