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The Reader - Blu-ray DVD / drama DVD / suspense DVD / adaptation DVD review
THE READER Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Ralph Fiennes, Kate Winslet, Jeanette Hain, David Kross, Susanne Lothar, Alissa Wilms
Director: Stephen Daldry Studio: Weinstein Company
DVD release: 28 April 2009 Runtime: 124 min.
(1 disc)
Format: Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 1.85:1, Audio tracks (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English, French), Subtitles (English SDH, Spanish), Deleted scenes, Adapting A Timeless Masterpiece: Making The Reader, A Conversation with David Kross & Stephen Daldry, Kate Winslet on the Art of Aging Hanna Schmitz, A New Voice: A Look at Composer Nico Muhly, Coming to Grips with the Past: Production Designer Brigitte Broch, Theatrical trailer

There are decisions made in life every day. Certainly if we had the gift of premonition, we'd know which choices should be given most consideration. The Reader is about a couple of key choices that two people make in their lives that should have been thought through more thoroughly. Time, pressure and immaturity being what they are, well thought-out decisions aren't always possible.

Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) first meets Michael Berg (David Kross) in front of her apartment. He's delirious with scarlet fever and has become sick on her sidewalk. She brusquely cleans him up and helps him get home. She seems not kind and motherly but stern and pragmatic. When he recovers weeks later, he stops by with some flowers and a thank-you for her. Soon they develop a sexual relationship, though she is twice his fifteen years at least. They meet in the afternoons for their sessions; she teaches him to be a lover, then after he reads to her from all manner of literature.

The Odyssey, The Lady with the Dog, Lady Chatterly - she loves being read to, and it is a central part of their not-quite courtship. He thinks he loves her, but more likely he is just obsessed. She never seems to love him, calling him 'kid' most the time. Soon she decides that the reading should come first, then the sex.

One day she disappears from her tiny apartment, and he doesn't see her again for eight years. While in law school, he is invited to attend a trial with a few other advanced students. Here he sees Hanna again.

She and five other women are on trial for the deaths of many Jewish prisoners during WWII. She made some questionable choices during this time, as well as choices about what to reveal about herself at the trial.

Michael has some information that may help to lessen her sentence, yet he chooses not to come forward and be associated with this woman. His choice affects her life and his own for years to come.

For most people, many choices in life don't carry as much weight as the choices made by the leads in The Reader. Michael's choices haunt him for years to come, making him a shadow of the person he might have become. We'll never know.

The performances in this literary adaptation (from the novel by Bernhard Schlink) are excellent; Kate Winslet's work in particular is amazing here. It's easy to believe that she's a practical German woman. The way she scrubs Michael after he is covered with coal dust is how a mother - or a prison guard - would do it. She's stern, disciplined, but reveals a softer side of herself - though not all of herself - to Michael.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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