Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Book Thief (2013)


“You're stealing books? Why?”
“When life robs you, sometimes you have to rob it back.”

            Living in Germany through the 1930s and 1940s could not have been easy for anyone- German or Jew. So much was promised and so much was taken away. So many lives were snuffed out or changed dramatically. The hardest thing to do during this time was just trying to live as normal a life as possible and survive in the hope for better things to come. The Book Thief, based off the book of the same title, portrays the lightness and darkness of trying to be normal and trying to survive.  
            A young girl named Liesel Meminger has been adopted by a German husband and wife, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Her younger brother died and her mother has also died in a sanatorium. Hans is warm and caring and takes to Liesel right away. Rosa on the other hand is a stern German woman who just sees Liesel as a bit of a pain to deal with and does not like that Hans gives the girl so much attention. One night Hans sees that Liesel is clutching a book called The Grave Digger’s Handbook. She saw the grave digger at her brother’s funeral drop it and she took it. Liesel wants to read it but she cannot read. Hans helps her to learn to read. Down in the cellar on the wall he has written all the letters of the alphabet and has her place certain words on the walls the more she reads.
            Liesel becomes friends with Rudy Steiner. He flirts with her a little bit as they walk home from school. They both encourage each other to be better and do more. In school Liesel and Rudy become part of the Hitler Youth. They attend a book burning together. Liesel’s love of books forces her to steal one from the ashes. She is seen by the wife of the town’s mayor. As Hans walks her home he sees her jacket is smoldering. She drops the book and he quickly and a bit angrily picks up the book so she will not get into trouble.
            On the night of Kristallnacht, a young Jewish man named Max Vandenburg is forced to leave his mother in the city and run away for his life. A few nights later he comes to the Hubermann’s home. Hans and Max’s father fought together in World War I where Max’s father saved Hans. In turn Hans told the father he would repay the debt someday. Max has been on the run for several days without any sleep or food and is very sick. At first he is allowed to be in the upstairs room where Liesel sleeps until the Nazis begin to search homes looking for Jews. Rosa sends Max to stay in the basement. Max and Liesel become good friends. He is a writer and has Liesel read books to him and with him.
            To earn money Rosa cleans laundry for the mayor and his wife. Not knowing about Liesel stealing the book at the burning Rosa sends her to the mayor’s house to drop off the laundry. The wife notices Liesel looking in the library while waiting to be paid. She tells the girl she can come back and read a book whenever she wants. This goes well for some time until the mayor sees Liesel and want her out of the house. After this Liesel returns to the house and steals books to bring back to read with Max.
            At Christmas Max paints over the pages of a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kempf . He presents the new book to Liesel at Christmas as a diary for her to write her thoughts and stories in. Sometime later when the Nazis search for Jews becomes too much Max is forced to leave. Liesel is devastated and misses him terribly.
            At the end of the War Liesel miraculously survives a bombing on the town but is cruelly left alone until Max comes back to find her.

            I thought The Book Thief was good but it was not that great. The story was different and the characters decent. I liked how Liesel knew there was something serious and dangerous going on yet at the same time she seemed unaware of how major it was probably like most children her age would be. I liked how she lived through words and books to cope with her days. My favorite scene is when Max asked Liesel what the day was like outside but with all of her feelings. You can see that is when Liesel really began to love words and understand certain emotions and feelings. I do want to read the book this movie is based off of. I can only hope that there is a bit more detail on certain events in the book than there was in the movie. The Book Thief is worth seeing at least once.