Head to Head – The Reader

Welcome to the latest edition of Head to Head, in which our Quickflix critic takes on our readers in a rip-snorting battle to the death! You pick the film, and we pick the fight!

This week, Paul Nelson schooled us on the quality of Stephen Daldry‘s The Reader. For his troubles, he scored a double pass to Alice in Wonderland. You can win free movie tickets too by sending your mini-reviews to us here at Quickflix!

Paul Nelson will argue FOR the film while Quickflix critic Simon Miraudo will argue AGAINST it. Let us know in the comments section below who you agree with. Spare no vitriol! Choose your side! There can only be one winner!

Paul Nelson – 4/5

Firstly, your humble host, Mr. Miraudo, while possessed of some well considered opinions, is as mad as a March Hare. Why? He repeatedly goes out of his way to beat on Stephen Daldry’s The Reader, one of the most beautiful, dark and complex films of recent years. Kate Winslet is in career form, playing a character who is one of the most brilliant, sensitive studies in what we like to simplify as ‘evil’ I’ve ever seen. The film deals with the German nation’s post-Holocaust guilt, and the nature of love better than most films I’ve seen as well. The first hour of the film, which deals with Winslet and Kross’s love affair is a portrait of tentative, guarded passion worthy of Ingmar Bergman. The film changes tone slightly in the second hour, but is just as effective, tragic, and absolutely refuses to make easy judgments. I really love this film.

Simon Miraudo – 1.5/5

So, “mad as a March Hare” am I? Funny; that’s how I’d describe the Academy members who so feverishly threw nominations (and maddeningly, the Best Actress prize) at Stephen Daldry’s The Reader. It’s emotionally empty; spiritually unsound. It poses the question: “What happens when you fall in love with evil?” and answers it by saying: “You get some tasty evil tail!” It’s odd to think that a picture in which an unrepentant Nazi begins a torrid love affair with an underage boy could ever be considered as a “romance”. While I have no problem with questionable characters in cinema (see my defence of Happiness), there is something off-putting about Daldry depicting these (fictional) events in the style of a “redemption tale”. I’m not saying that Daldry must condemn her; but must he paint her so sympathetically? As for a “sensitive [study] in what we like to simplify as ‘evil’”? Wow, even illiterate Nazi’s like having books read to them! They’re just like you and I!

Now it’s over to you! What are your thoughts on The Reader? Let us know in the comments section below. If you would like to be featured in the next Head to Head and possibly win some free movie tickets, send your mini-reviews to us here at Quickflix!

4 Responses to “Head to Head – The Reader”

  1. I'm with Paul, loved The Reader!There's a timeless quality to it, it's filmed beautifully, and Winslet hands down deserved her Oscar.

  2. Ohhh DUDE. You know it's about so much more than that! I'm gonna put a controversial question out there:Why SHOULDN'T we have a sympathetic look at a Nazi?Not all Nazis were Hans Landa types. Most were more like Winslet, ordinary people brainwashed by a deranged leader into doing horrible things. And ordinary people do don't just turn evil & commit genocidal acts… It's firmly entrenched ignorance tempered by what they perceive to be demonstrated social "evidence" ("they" come here & take our jobs, make more money, get rich off "our" hard work, etc). And with beliefs so ingrained that you'll follow orders & lead people to death without blinking, that doesn't just go away. And THE READER's one of the few films to examine this with any depth. It's been 65 years, surely we've achieved enough distance to start looking at the Nazis as mentally unbalanced/chronically brainwashed human beings rather than criminal masterminds or devils in snazzy leather coats. That's the scariest thing about Nazism, and why films like THE READER should be encouraged. And for someone to stick with &/or keep helping someone even after finding out they were a Nazi? That's love, man. Not the "ooh he's a thief that's so EXCITING oh he's married what a cad oh I'm so OLD" nonsense of the fraudulent AN EDUCATION. (Just to cite an example.) And I like the idea of her falling in love with an underage boy; even the one pure thing in her life (her love) is manifested as something society considers an "evil" act. Hanna's just wired in all the wrong ways, & the question of whether she- as a human being- "deserves" sympathy is a challenging & powerful one.Thesis submitted! 😉

  3. Interesting points there Slightly Illuminated Knight, although for more appropriate examples of sympathetic Nazis/German Soldiers circa WW2, see INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS,VALKYRIE (or, in a more abstract sense, THE WHITE RIBBON or perhaps THE WAVE).

  4. I really like The Reader. I don't like telling people they're actually wrong, but so many people have completely misread this movie. Hanna tries to make herself appear sympathetic and in the eyes of Michael she is, but you just need to watch the final scene with Lena Olin – a marvel of a performance, that one – to see that. Just watching her face and looking into her eyes, it's as if Olin is slapping Ralph Fiennes without even the dignity of getting up out of her chair. Made me forget about any sort of sympathetic tendencies that Hanna and the film may have exhibited.Furthermore, I think we're meant to pity Hanna more than sympathise with her.Disappointed you brought up the Oscars though. The Reader is BY FAR a superior movie to repulsive garbage like Slumdog Millionaire and boring tosh like Frost/Nixon.

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