The Book Thief, directed by Brian Percival and written by Michael Petroni, is based upon a novel of the same name written by Australian author Markus Zusak.
I read the novel a number of months ago, and I loved it. It’s raw and beautiful and it holds within its pages a story about hope and terrible times…and you get the picture.
When I started watching the movie, I wasn’t 100% sure what I should be expecting. I had amazing experiences with book to movie adaptations, and some not so good experiences. I have long since learnt to treat the movies as separate things in the end, otherwise I will never really learn to enjoy them and will always be looking at little flaws that may not always matter (however, when I find a glaring error I will still pick up on that, don’t get me wrong).
The Book Thief is about a young girl, Liesel, living in Nazi Germany. Her mother sends her away to live with a foster family. It is during her time there that she picks up the habit of stealing books, particularly when the Nazis are burning them (as was quite common during that time period).
The young actress playing Liesel, Sophie Nélisse, did a wonderful job. I think that she portrayed Liesel perfectly from the way I had read her in the novel—it was a simply brilliant and heartbreaking and beautiful performance. I did some research about the movie and her, and while she has won some awards I am at a loss as to why there haven’t been more. This girl is 13 years old (also a Canadian which I think is amazing—Go Canada!), and this seems to be her first role in a major motion picture, although she has had other roles in the past.
The other actors in the movie did great jobs as well, and there are certain scenes that just ooze suspense and danger, as well as panic and heartbreak. I won’t spoil what happens in this one particular scene, but my goodness it was intense. This scene demonstrated just how brave Liesel and her foster parents actually were—as I understand it a few families actually did this during the war, but many of them backed out in some fashion.
I really want to note that there is an interesting narration going on, both in the movie and in the book. The Book Thief is narrated by Death, and I am just fascinated with this choice. The movie brings this out from the book so well—it is definitely not your typical narration. You don’t often see narration in movies in the first place, and this was such a refreshing change. At the same time though, it isn’t a shock to the system and it just seems natural with the way that the story progresses. It added a great layer to the film, particularly near the end. You’ll know what I am talking about when you see it.
The cinematography was great, as well as the costume design. However, my second favourite part of the film as a whole, next to the acting, was most definitely the soundtrack. It matched the tone of the film perfectly, and the music was played at the right moments. In addition to that, the music is just plain beautiful. As I mentioned before, I did do some research on the film after watching it, and I discovered that John Williams composed the score for this movie. I’m not surprised in the slightest. Some of my favourite movie music comes from the Harry Potter films, specifically the pieces of Hedwig’s Theme and A Window to the Past, both of which were composed by John Williams.
The Book Thief is, unfortunately, only nominated for one Academy Award, which happens to be for Best Original Score. I will admit that I have not seen all of the films paired with the music, but the score in The Book Thief just fits so perfectly that I am not sure if I will like another one more.
Overall, The Book Thief is an amazing film and I highly recommend that you watch it. I also recommend that you read the book, if only to have that experience as well, but I am sure that if you watch the film without reading the book it will still have the same kind of impact. It is a beautiful film after all.