Cinematic repression

The Reader translates an interior-voice tome into cinema

REVIEW Falling ill from scarlet fever on a mid-1950s Berlin street, strapping 15-year-old schoolboy Michael Berg (David Kross) experiences kindness from passerby Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) that he seeks to repay when he recovers some months later. The brusque, moody woman more than twice his age brushes him off, initially. But then they commence an affair in which she proves a very astute erotic tutor, though she resists the emotional connection he feels. A decade later, as a law student, he discovers Hanna's secret while spectating a Nazi war crimes trial. Decades later still, grown-up Michael (Ralph Fiennes) recollects these events as they've weighed on his subsequent life. David Hare's very sharp screenplay takes some liberties adapting Bernhard Schlink's novel. But in general, the screenplay and director Stephen Daldry (2002's The Hours, 2000's Billy Elliot) do an exemplary job transutf8g a primarily interior-voice tome into cinematic terms. Like other recent successful films about emotional repression (2005's Brokeback Mountain and the forthcoming Revolutionary Road, for instance), The Reader is most moving precisely in its rigorous restraint, directorial and performance-wise.

THE READER opens Fri/12 in San Francisco.

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