[Screen It]

 

"THE READER"
(2008) (Kate Winslet, David Kross) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Minor Extreme Mild None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None None None Minor
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Extreme Heavy Moderate Heavy Mild


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A teen enters into a sexual affair with an older woman, unaware of her notorious past until many years later.
PLOT:
Michael Berg (RALPH FIENNES) is a divorced lawyer who's trying to do right by his adult daughter, but occasionally finds himself thinking back on his life, and particularly his involvement with Hanna Schmitz (KATE WINSLET) back in 1958. Then, Michael (DAVID KROSS) is a 15-year-old suffering from scarlet fever when 36-year-old cable car ticket taker Hanna ends up caring for him. After his recovery, they begin having an affair, with her trading sex for him reading classic piece of literature to her, and he forgoes spending time with other classmates such as Sophie (VIJESSNA FERKIC) in favor of being with Hanna. But just as quickly as it began, the affair abruptly ends when she suddenly disappears.

Years later, Michael is a law school student studying under Professor Rohl (BRUNO GANZ). When they go to observe a Nazi war crimes trial, Michael is shocked to see Hanna as one of the defendants, and hear stories from the likes of Rose Mather (LENA OLIN) about the atrocities that Hanna and others allegedly committed. From that point on, and then years again later, Michael must come to terms with that, as well as the aftereffects of Hanna's past actions, including on the likes of Rose's now adult daughter, Ilana (LENA OLIN).

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of anyone in the cast, it doesn't seem too likely.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For some scenes of sexuality and nudity.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • KATE WINSLET plays a direct and pragmatic woman in her thirties who enters into a torrid affair with teenage Michael, exchanging sex for him reading to her. SPOILER ALERT: We later learn -- via her being on trial for war crimes -- that she was a guard at a Nazi concentration camp and thus was responsible for the care as well as deaths of many inmates. She must then contend with the repercussions of that.
  • DAVID KROSS plays a teen who's helped by Hanna, a woman twice his age, and then enters into a sexual affair with her, to the detriment of his involvement with others his age. He also plays an older version of that same character, now in law school who's shocked to learn of her past. He smokes.
  • RALPH FIENNES plays Michael as an adult who's still entranced by the various aspects of his involvement with Hanna so many years ago. He ends up assisting her in an unusual way and drinks some.
  • LENA OLIN plays both a woman who survived the concentration camps as a child, and then as that woman's now grown adult daughter, both of whom must deal with the lasting effects of Hanna's actions.
  • BRUNO GANZ plays a law professor who tries to get Michael and his other students to explore all aspects of the Nazi crime trials they observe.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity consists of a few minor expletives, while a handful of colorful phrases are also present. Various sexual encounters are seen (between a 36-year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy) with movement, nudity and sounds, while nonsexual nudity (including full frontal) is also present.

    There's an off-screen suicide, while that and some scenes, including those related to concentration camps (mostly talk, but there's also a visit to a long abandoned one), may be unsettling for some viewers. Various characters drink and/or smoke, while one visibly vomits from being ill (non-alcohol related). Bad attitudes are present, as is some tense family material.

    If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

    For those prone to visually induced motion sickness, there is a little camera movement from time to time the film.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Young Michael reads a graphic novel to Hanna where both mention the word whiskey as part of the story.
  • We see miscellaneous beer drinking.
  • Michael's daughter Julia has a drink in front of her, and then both she and her dad have wine.
  • We see miscellaneous people drinking at a party.
  • Michael drinks a little wine.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • We see young Michael looking rather ill, and he then vomits twice in the entrance to Hanna's building. She then comes out with a bucket of water and washes that vomit away.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • 36-year-old Hanna carries on a sexual affair with 15-year-old Michael.
  • Young Michael leaves and/or skips school so that he can go and have sex with Hanna on a regular basis.
  • While she's on trial, we hear that Hanna joined the SS as a prison guard, and that she worked at Auschwitz, then Krakow, and was then involved with an infamous death march.
  • Hanna admits that as a SS prison guard she and her coworkers had to choose 60 women to be sent off to their deaths. She defends this by stating that there was simply not enough room in the prison, what with new prisoners arriving all of the time.
  • A concentration camp survivor states that Hanna and the other guards took them to stay in a church, but then did not try to rescue them when a bombing caused the church to catch on fire. As a result 300 people there died. When asked about this on trial, Hanna matter-of-factly states that she had no other choice, as their job was to guard the prisoners, and that if they had let them out of the burning church, that would've resulted in chaos.
  • When Michael asks Hanna if she has thought about the past (referring to her time as a concentration camp guard), she states matter-of-factly that the dead are still dead.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Michael goes and visits an old Nazi concentration camp, and we see views of the many wooden bunks, the shower room, another room filled with victims' shoes stacked high behind chicken wire as far as the eye can see, as well as a view of the crematory ovens.
  • We see a female prisoner remove her shoes, and then stand on a stack of books on a table. This is done to commit suicide, but we don't see the act, or the body afterwards.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Nazi whore" and "Then what the hell is the point of anything?"
  • As young Michael rushes by some other boys and bumps into one, the younger kid gives him the "F-U" gesture with his hand and arm, and may also give him "the finger" in the same motion.
  • We see miscellaneous graffiti.
  • We see a female prisoner remove her shoes, and then stand on a stack of books on a table. This is done to commit suicide, but we don't see the act, or the body afterwards.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 2 hells.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see a woman walking nude through adult Michael's place, and we see her bare butt as well as the side of her bare breast.
  • Young Michael watches as Hanna irons her bra. She then says she will walk with him on her way to work, but tells him to stand outside as she changes clothes. He does so but peers back inside the door, seeing her in her slip, as well as pulling her stocking up along her bare leg. She catches him doing that, he's embarrassed, and then rushes out.
  • Young Michael goes to see Hanna again, and she has him bring up two buckets of coal for her place. When he does so, he has coal dust all over her face, so she tells him he can't go home that way and instructs him to take off his clothes for a bath. He does, and is embarrassed, especially when he's just in his briefs, with her taking a peek to look at him that way. He then removes his underwear, and we see fleeting glimpses of his penis, pubic hair, and bare butt as he gets into the tub. He then bathes himself, but then looks down toward his crotch and suddenly looks embarrassed, placing his hands over his apparent but unseen erection. She then holds up a towel for him, as he has his back turned to her, thus preventing him from noticing that she is fully nude standing directly behind him (we see her full rear nudity, and also see his bare butt). She then reaches around and apparently feels his penis (not seen) and states, "So that's why you came back." She then turns him around so both are facing each other and he quickly goes to kiss her, but she tells him to take it slowly. The scene ends there, but we then see various quick flashback views of them having sex, including sitting upright, with movement, sounds, and views of her bare breasts. We then see a head and shoulders view of him having sex on top of her, with movement and sounds.
  • We see young Michael on top of Hanna, who has her leg up over his shoulder as they have sex. We see her bare breasts, as well as movement, while her sounds and facial expressions go from slightly pained to pleasurable. After that, we see her lying on her side nude on a bed, and see her bare butt, with young Michael then kissing her bare hip.
  • We partially see Hanna's bare breasts and butt following an unseen sexual encounter with young Michael who's also on the bed nude, lying face down. She then climbs on top of him, her chest to his back.
  • We see young Michael and Hanna nude on her bed, with a view of his bare butt, and then of him holding a book down at his crotch area while he reads to her, thus covering a view of his penis.
  • We see young Michael and Hanna in a bathtub, seated on either end of the tub facing each other, but we don't see any nudity.
  • Hanna undresses down to her bra and we then see her bare breasts. We later see her lying in the bathtub, and can see her bare breasts under the water.
  • About him earlier getting on her cable car, Hanna asks Michael if he really thought they could make love on a tram.
  • Hanna tells young Michael the new rules of their arrangement, which is that he reads to her first, and then they make love.
  • We see young Michael and Hanna in bed nude, where they kiss and we see her bare butt. We then see them having sex while seated upright, with views of her bare breasts and movement, and we hear related sounds of the encounter.
  • Young Michael reads part of a passage from "Lady Chatterley's Lover" to Hanna, with descriptive passages about naked flesh and being inside the woman.
  • We see Hanna kissing down young Michael's bare chest as his shirt is open, and this causes him pleasure.
  • We see Hannah swimming in an outdoor body of water, and we can see her nipples through her sheer bra.
  • We see Sophie and other girls in bikinis, while young Michael and other teens are shirtless as they hang out by a swimming lake. We see the same again in a later scene.
  • We see young Michael shirtless.
  • Hanna, who is fully clothed, hand washes young Michael's fully nude body as he stands in the tub. During this we see both his full frontal and full rear nudity. We then see them passionately kiss, followed by a view of them having sex seated upright, with movement, a brief view of her bare breast, and related sounds.
  • Young Michael goes skinny-dipping by himself in a lake, and we briefly see his bare butt.
  • From a distance, Michael looks through a window and sees a couple having sex, missionary style, in another room and or building, with movement and brief views of that man's bare butt.
  • We see Michael and another law school student passionately kiss and start to undress, with a view of her in her bra, then several head and shoulder shots of him on top of her having sex, with movement and sounds, but no nudity.
  • Michael sits up in bed fully nude, but we don't see anything explicit.
  • While in prison, Hanna bathes herself while standing up, and we see her bare back as well as the side of her bare breast.
  • We see Michael shirtless.
  • SMOKING
  • Michael (as a law school student) smokes at least 7 times, while various miscellaneous characters (including a boy) also smoke.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • We learn that Michael is divorced, and after he tells his young adult daughter that he is not open to anyone (meaning emotionally), she's somewhat relieved, stating that she always thought it was her fault.
  • We see Michael visit his mother to tell her that he is getting divorced from his wife. His mother than comments on him not having attended his father's funeral, but coming home to announce this.
  • Ilana, now a middle-aged woman, informs Michael that her mother died several years ago.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • We hear that young Michael has scarlet fever.
  • 36-year-old Hanna carries on a sexual affair with 15-year-old Michael.
  • While she's on trial, we hear that Hanna joined the SS as a prison guard, and that she worked at Auschwitz, then Krakow, and was then involved with an infamous death march.
  • The comment that to prove murder, you have to prove intent, and that the law is not about right or wrong in terms of morality, but in terms of what is legal and what is not based on the laws of the time.
  • Michael goes and visits an old Nazi concentration camp, and we see views of the many wooden bunks, the shower room, another room filled with victims' shoes stacked high behind chicken wire as far as the eye can see, as well as a view of the crematory ovens.
  • Illiteracy.
  • Michael is torn about what to do regarding Hanna taking the blame for something for which she was not solely at fault.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Young Michael and Hanna argue about something, with him then grabbing and planting a kiss on her, causing her to slap his face.
  • We see a female prisoner remove her shoes, and then stand on a stack of books on a table. This is done to commit suicide, but we don't see the act, or the body afterwards.



  • Reviewed December 4, 2008 / Posted January 2, 2009

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