Last Wednesday night, I went to a preview screening on The Book Thief, which opened here a couple of days ago. And I had some thoughts about it, particularly after reading the book and having All The Feels last year. But considering it's basically just opened here and doesn't open in a lot of places for another couple of weeks, I'm gonna go ahead and put my thoughts under a jump cut, because SPOILERS SWEETIE. Read on at your peril...
I don't think there was anything about the film that I would go so far as to classify as bad. The vast majority of it was, in my opinion at least, very well done. Instead, there were a handful of things that niggled at me throughout the film and which have kept niggling afterwards.
But first, the good:
The acting from almost all cast members is excellent, but Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nélisse particularly stand out. Nélisse in particular was phenomenal, especially as her character goes from about age 11 to about age 17 in the course of the film. The hair, make up and costume designers also did an excellent job of portraying her changing age. Given that many of the cast are relatively inexperienced, I thought that they did a fantastic job of bringing the story to life. There was no one where I thought "That's not how I pictured that character, and it's going to annoy me now", which happens quite a bit with adaptations (I'm looking at you, James and Lily Potter).
The sets and the locations were all absolutely stunning, and the scene with Liesel running to Isla after the bombing was moving. The narration, which I was nervous wouldn't be included, worked surprisingly well even without all the segments in the book focusing on war. Most of the shots were beautifully framed, and the couple of songs featured, though unexpected, worked well within the story.
Overall, it stayed true to the book, was convincingly acted, and beautifully shot.
However, as I said before, there were a few problems for me. First and foremost, while Nico Liersch did an excellent job of playing Rudy (albeit a Rudy who looked like a miniature Draco Malfoy), his baby face made it difficult to believe that he aged from 11 to 14 or 15 during the film. It looked more like he was remaining the same age while Liesel got older and older. Part of this is, I suppose, the fact that they couldn't easily change his hairstyle to depict his changing age as they could with Sophie Nélisse. But I still spent a decent chunk of the movie wondering why Liesel was hanging out with a kid three years younger than her...
My other major niggling problem had to do with some of the language choices. Where the majority of the film was in English spoken with a German accent, there were certain words that were consistently in German, particularly "ja", "nein", "und" and "saumensch". The last of these is understandable, since it's a term that's used time and time again in the book. But the others just pulled me out of the story. To hear a conversation like "Liesel, I need you to do something for me," "Ja, Mama?" "Und make sure you don't get distracted while you do it!" was a little bizarre and didn't really add anything other than a slight sense of irritation.
My last issue had to do with the ending, and may have just been a problem for me. And that was that the aftermath of Heaven Street being bombed and Max's return felt rushed. People around me were sniffling into their hankies, but for me, having the aftermath of the bombing condensed into a couple of pages lost something. Similarly, Max's return after the war lost a lot of its impact when it took place in about five seconds worth of film. And it didn't even occur to me until after I got home that Rudy's father returned from the war to find his entire family dead and his house destroyed. Instead, we get two seconds worth of Liesel working in his shop.
So yeah. Niggles and nitpicking aside, it was really well done and I thoroughly enjoyed the film.
Have you seen it? What did you think?