The Reader (2008)

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Released 23-Jun-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Main Menu Introduction
Featurette-Making Of-3
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Makeup
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 118:52
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Stephen Daldry
Studio
Distributor
The Weinstein Co.
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Ralph Fiennes
Jeanette Hain
David Kross
Kate Winslet
Susanne Lothar
Alissa Wilms
Florian Bartholomäi
Friederike Becht
Matthias Habich
Frieder Venus
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Nico Muhly


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

‘It doesn’t matter what I feel. It doesn’t matter what I think. The dead are still dead’

     Unlike many recent releases I have reviewed, The Reader is a marvellous film driven by excellent performances from the three leads, Kate Winslet (who won an Oscar for this role), Ralph Fiennes and young German actor, David Kross. The direction (by Stephen Daldry) and the writing and cinematography are also of very high quality. The film received further Oscar nominations for directing, cinematography (Chris Menges & Roger Deakins), writing and Best Picture.

     Going into this film (having not seen it before reviewing the DVD) I was somewhat concerned that this would be another ‘holocaust film’ in the long line of recent releases on this topic. What we have here though is a film which explores not the holocaust itself but rather the effect of it on Germany and especially the German people in the years since World War II. To my mind, this makes it stand out from the pack as a more sensitive and interesting story when compared to other films which focus on the prison camps themselves. This area is not shied away from, however, it does not become the focus of the piece. There is an excellent montage of young Michael visiting the remains of a camp which highlights the horror of the holocaust without words. This story and film is about the real and fairly ordinary people involved and how it affected them and those around them.

     The story begins in the late 1950s in Germany. A young man, Michael Berg (David Kross at this point) is walking home from school in the rain and begins to feel ill. He takes refuge in the entryway of a set of flats and starts to vomit. A woman, Hanna Schmidt (Kate Winslet), although initially annoyed with him, comes to his aid, cleaning him up and making sure he gets home. He is immediately attracted to her despite the fact that he is only 15 and she is significantly older. When he recovers from his illness, he returns to thank her but secretly hopes for something more. They begin a sexual affair and then a romantic relationship. He is smitten with her despite the age difference and her propensity to anger and gruffness. She too falls in love with him. She loves to have him read aloud to her regardless of whether it is great literature he is studying at school or things like Tintin. Their relationship develops and they begin to spend more and more time together, until abruptly one day he finds her apartment empty and cannot find her.

     Some years later, while he is studying law, he attends a War Crimes trial only to find that Hanna Schmidt is one of the defendants. The film follows the stories of these two people over many years. The older Michael Berg is played with great skill by Ralph Fiennes.

     Despite the subject matter this is a beautiful film, sensual, powerful, affecting and riveting. Kate Winslet gives an incredible performance here which few actresses would be able to match. She is ably supported by both the actors who play Michael, the young idealistic and in love version (David Kross) and the older more world weary and sad version (Ralph Fiennes).

     Stephen Daldry has crafted an excellent film here with the support of the wonderful cinematography by two masters of their craft. His direction provides a great platform for the wonderful acting and results in a film which holds your attention from start to finish. He shows restraint in the way potentially ugly images are shown which to my mind makes them more effective. This is certainly true in the camp montage I mentioned earlier. The viewer is allowed to see it for themselves, just as Michael is doing when he visits the camp. Considering that the book is written as a first person narrative, he conveys great meaning and information with his actors and the way they are shot rather than resorting to a voice over.

     There has been some noise generated based on the fact that the Michael Berg character is only 15 at the time he starts the affair with the older Hanna. The actor was 18 when the sex scenes were shot and they are certainly key to the story. I do not feel that this was in any way gratuitous, despite some nudity (both male and female). These scenes are beautifully shot and lit, adding sensuality and complexity to the story.

     This is a film for adults, it makes you think, it is riveting and beautiful. Highly Recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is very good.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced which is close to the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    The picture was very sharp and clear throughout without being as crisp as the best modern transfers. Shadow detail is also very good.

    The colour was excellent showing off the great use of colour in the film, the warmer yellow tones in the love affair and the harsher gray tones in later scenes.

    There were some signs of the MPEG conversion to be seen but they were never distracting. Some scenes showed a very small amount of MPEG grain and there was some minor pixelization around fast moving characters.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired which were clear and easy to read.

    There is a noticeable layer change during the feature at 70:00.

   
    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is very good but doesn't really show off your system.

    This DVD contains three audio options, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 384 Kb/s, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio Descriptive soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s .

    Dialogue was very easy to understand and clear throughout.

    The score is by young composer Nico Muhly and features a piano theme and some orchestral sections. It is a very beautiful and haunting score which adds significantly to the film.

    The surround speakers were really only used for music and atmosphere. They were noticeable during a church choir sequence and other crowd scenes.

    The subwoofer was used for music and incidental bass.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Good quality set of extras. All are 16x9 enhanced with the exception of the trailer.

Menu

    The menu is attractive, featuring an intro, motion and music.

The Reader - Adapting a Timeless Masterpiece (23:01)

    Quality making of featurette which avoid the usual pitfalls of such things. It is interesting covering topics such as how the novel was difficult to bring to the screen, the involvement of Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack who both died during production, locations, cast plus some behind the scenes footage. Interview material is included with the major cast members and crew..

The Makeup (12:49)

    Interesting footage of the process of making Kate Winslet look like someone in her 60s including makeup and body prosthetics.

The Music (4:07)

    Interview material and performance footage of the film's composer at work. Needed more depth.

The Production Design (7:20)

    The director discusses what he was lookng for and the production designer discusses the various time periods and the looks she was going for. She also talks about her personal feelings about the story. Interesting.

Theatrical Trailer (2:32)

    A quality trailer. Non 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Unfortunately, our local release misses out on two extras from the Region 1 release both of which sound interesting. They are A Conversation with David Kross and Stephen Daldry (9:46) and Deleted Scenes (42:08). Region 1 also gets a French 5.1 dub but misses out on the Audio Descriptive and stereo tracks. This title is also available on Blu-ray in the US which is supposed to be region free.

Summary

    A beautiful film about an unsettling and powerful subject matter.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    Good quality extras but we miss out on two from the Region 1 release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Friday, June 26, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS708H upscaling to 1080p, using HDMI output
DisplayLG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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