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Review: The Reader

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Mark Kermode | 12:30 UK time, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Congratulations are in order for Kate Winslet's Golden Globes, but The Reader is by no means the first work of cinema to explore the world of sexed up Nazis.

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  • Comment number 1.

    What a pleasure it is to hear you talk about exploitation Mr Kermode

    Ilsa she wolf of the SS is the very best of nazploitation. Never has the holocaust been so sexy.

    Miss Winslet is no match Dyanne Thorne both in the terms of sex appeal or acting.

    Miss Thorne is much more sinister and believable as the 3rd reich's nymphomaniac, top bitch

    Also worthy titles in this fantastic sub genre are The beast in heat, SS experiment love camp & Love Camp 7

    Nazploitation is truly one of the greatest sub genres of film ever These films gratuitous and camp and sexy as hell

  • Comment number 2.

    I wont be going to see The Reader purely on the basis on Winslet's toe curlingly embarrassing Golden Globes winning speeches. This im just a normal girl next door act is wearing very thin now. Why cant people just say thanks and be done with it.

    Sexiest Nazi for me is Alexandra Maria Lara in Downfall (Ironically shes apparently in The Reader)

  • Comment number 3.

    Did anyone else think Kate Winslet's acceptance speech at the globes was a bit, sickly? over rehearsed? fake?

  • Comment number 4.

    You're comparing The Reader to cheap porn? Seriously? It's true, the film has its faults but it's not pornographic. I loved that the film managed to portray the affair as something other than abuse, yet showed that it was wrong without being too preachy. It's not a Nazi film, not really. As I (pardon the pun) read it, it's about this woman's illiteracy. She's bouncing from job to job because she has to leave every time her inability to read is about to be exposed. That's how she ended up a concentration camp guard; nothing to do with the ideology. She ended the affair for the same reason: she was about to be promoted at work. The burden is so great she confesses to war crimes rather than admit her illiteracy. That, I think, is what the film is asking the audience to consider.

  • Comment number 5.

    Mark you may already know this but they’ve remade ‘The Last House on the Left’ now I know you did a great deal of work to get the BBFC to release the cuts made, and that you’re a fan of Horror/ Exploitation movies, but why oh why do they keep remaking the classic ones. I was furious when they remade The Texas Chainsaw Massacre…. Now when you mention a horror film you very often say ‘original or remake’
    I think the mark kermode blog should make a well mannered stand, and from now on the remake should be known as… NOT THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT....

  • Comment number 6.

    Considering their delightful uniforms and love of obeying orders, Nazi influence on the smut-flick genre must be seen as inevitable. I know some of these films are irredeemably grotty, but consider how upset they would have made Hitler - can't be all bad, then, can they?

  • Comment number 7.

    Good god my doctor,

    where did you learn about "stumping"? This is almost to rude to use - great!

    Also the german accent ist very convincing.

    Listening to the film reviews on bbc5 every friday I noticed that you must have a secret love for german.

    To hear you speak out the unspeakable "Max von Sydow" or even "Jürgen Prochnow" is an inner "Reichparteitag"for a native speaker of this "edgy" language.

    Weitermachen, mein lieber Kermode! Sehr gut!

  • Comment number 8.

    The problem I had with The Reader is that it didn't seem to know what it was about. Should I have been focusing on the war guilt aspect or Ralph Fiennes' search for catharsis. Yes performances are top and yes it's well made but at the end of the day you're asked to sympathise with a woman who would rather kill hundreds of people than admit to her illiteracy, I couldn't do it.

  • Comment number 9.

    Mark, I haven't seen The Reader but I've just watched a few of your videos on this blog and you invite people to offer their opinions freely. So here's my two pennies.

    I cannot believe you liked Wolf Creek. It is terrible. It has no redeeming qualities. It seems to have been made to either disgust the viewer, or get them off (perhaps both). Torture porn is not good horror, Psycho and The Orphanage are examples of excellent horror movies because they they don't fall back on extreme violence and gore to make the audience feel involved. In Wolf Creek, Greg McLean must have sat down and watched the Saw films and said "That's great, now let's do it in the outback."

  • Comment number 10.

    With all due respect to Matt7895, whilst I felt the content in Wolf Creek wasn't exactly anything new, I was glad to see a film that finally dealt with such an incident occurring in the Outback.

    I felt that all the films before then, such as Walkabout or the first half of Gallipoli, never really went in-depth when exploring this extremely isolated part of the world.

    Whatever qualms you may have with its 'torture porn', you certainly cannot deny the very disturbing and unsettling way in which Wolf Creek draws you into this almost '5th character' of Nature, which never reveals its secrets. Such as when they visit the crater and wonder why it landed in the middle of absolute nowhere, or the old legends of the creepy lights appearing in the darkness. I for one wasn't really endeared towards the character of Mick Taylor, but I was certainly enticed by the way in which the Outback draws us as an audience deeper and deeper into its shadows.

  • Comment number 11.

    Doc K,

    I have no doubt that the fact Kate Loselet became Kate Winslet at long last was well deserved,but do you agree that her histrionics at the GG's was the worst performance of her career? When Kate Winslet played Kate Winslet on Sunday,she was backside-clampingly embarrasing!

  • Comment number 12.

    Maybe this slightly off subject, but I've just read in the Guardian that Kate Winslet was nominated for two Baftas, for the reader and for Revolutionary Road. Only, the latter hasn't come out in the uk yet. The same happened last year with There will be blood (possibly with other films too, I can't quite remember now). Does anyone else think that it's really pathetic that the Baftas should try so hard to compete with their hollywood counterparts that they include films that no one has seen yet? How is one supposed to be happy, upset, or angry (assuming one cares) when someone wins/loses an award, if one hasn't seen their performance/film in the first place?

    What does the doc think about this?

  • Comment number 13.

    Welsh Morgan has it spot on. Sorry Doctor K you've completely lost the plot this time. How can this film be compared to an SS exploitation movie? It's a story of how despicable acts are hidden in society until a spark wakes up the community conscience so that justice is seen to be done. It's more an indictment of us all. Back to your usual intelligent critiques please MK.

  • Comment number 14.

    I have an addition to my earlier comment, completely unrelated. But I'd like to hear Dr Kermode's opinion on Che as I haven't heard him say enough about it yet. I saw both parts back to back on the one off screening day and I'd be really interested to hear Mark's views.

  • Comment number 15.

    Yes can we have Che review please? Incedentally im annoyed that it was only on at my local cinema in leeds for a week so i missed it. Will have to wait for DVD.

  • Comment number 16.

    BenLamb1988 wrote:

    Did anyone else think Kate Winslet's acceptance speech at the globes was a bit, sickly? over rehearsed? fake?

    Yes. Like her entire persona

  • Comment number 17.

    Why are you all going on about her GG speech? I am interested in what people have to say about the film itself rather than whether she is a good orator or not. I couldn't give a toss about her acceptance speeches personally. I do care whether she is a good actress, and if her performance in the film is any good. I wouldn't have expected these kind of comments on here as we are all obviously film buffs. If I want the latest celeb bitching session, then I'll go on Perez Hilton, not on here.

    Incidentally, I believe the speech that most people took exception to was for Revolutionary Road and not The Reader.

  • Comment number 18.

    Here we've got two conflicting reviews of the film.

    -One is summed up: "How can this film be compared to an SS exploitation movie?"

    -And the other: "It's not a Nazi film, not really. As I read it, it's about this woman's illiteracy."

    So why the Nazis? I'm so tired of films that have no other ideas about how to conjure ideas of disgust and automatic dislike in their audiences returning again and again to the Nazis.

    This just changes the historical events into a plot device, and I personally am not comfortable with that. As our good host Dr K points out, this is fine in a film that tells you it's exploiting that subject (as long as everyone knows it's happening) but I think it's despicable in films that want to be taken seriously.

  • Comment number 19.

    i agree, i cant help but notice a similarity between every film to pass every major film award ceremony for decades now. It's rare we have an oscar nominated film that isn't a 3 hour long epic that needs to be taken seriously to even exist as a piece of cinematography. Im not saying the films in question aren't any good, quiet the contrary they obviously have something to get them to such a celebratory level, but i wish that just for once, the oscars or the golden globe awards (etc) could just get out of their box for a few hours and open their minds just a little.

  • Comment number 20.

    C'mon Kermode! Though I can appreciate the Oscar obvious intention of the film, homing in on the sex
    scenes is a bit much - you KNOW that the nudity makes the woman much more 'real' and human. So when we see the trial we think yes, she's a horrible woman but she is a human and just maybe that law student was right and it is abit unfair she takes the fall, blah blah blah. Without the 'gratutious' nudity in the first act, the audiences view of her would not have been as personal when we see her on trial. Exploitation movies ... do we knock Spielberg for his big-budget B-movie/exploitation movie that became 'Jaws'? (Maybe we knock him a little...)

  • Comment number 21.

    What an uncharacteristically pretentious review, though I agree up to a point. The Reader is the most totally misjudged film I have ever seen, everything about it is wrong, the acting is adequate (Ms W) to poor (everybody else), the last scene with the Auschwitz survivor put the guard's tea caddy next to the photo of her murdered family is idiotic, the cycling scene is too cheesy for words, the dialogue, esp with the students/professor is abysmal, so is the music, I'm sure Lady C hadn't been published in German in 1958. Making him a stamp collector was a nice touch though...

  • Comment number 22.

    Mmmmm! Strange thing the Oscars. How come Kate wins one for The Reader and not for Revolutionary Road? The Reader is not a bad film but it is mediocre. If anyone should have won the gong it should have been David Kross. And while I'm at it why the over orchestration especially in the early part of the film?

  • Comment number 23.

    As someone who generally agrees with your film reviews I find myself at complete odds with your comments about The Reader! I think you got it seriously wrong this time. Your reference to Nazi / porn appeal misses the point and is based on your natural stance as a film reviewer to examine the genre in historical film terms. This film stands on its own to the viewer and essentially focuses around the immense problems the "next generation" had in coping with the guilt of their parents in denying, participating or ignoring the holocaust. As such I believe it raised many issues through a faithful interpretation of the story as told by Bernhard Schlink (which I urge you to read). The acting and screenplay were excellent and the audience was left profoundly moved by the film (which we happened to see in Holland). Look again Mark - have you got this one wrong for once?


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