Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Which is better? Book Thief

I read The Book Thief last year. I don't remember how I acquired the book but I remembered that it was a great, big deal. I think BAE got me a copy of the book from Perry Hall? Or was it from the Independence's book closet? Anyway, I read the book last summer and a few days ago, I finally got around to watching the movie.

Man, oh man, I liked both the book and the movie. However, goodreads reviews always makes me second guess myself. Some of the reviews aligned with my opinions on the book, was that it was very good, albeit, dense. However, some of the reviews rip the book apart, which makes me think, 'oh, do I not have good taste? Am I not critical enough of books?'

But you know what? Sometimes we read for entertainment. Not every book we read has to enhance our lives for the better, or make us think of how to improve the world. Also, we don't have to constantly criticize whether the book will move the world or whether it makes the reader aware of what is out there. When people put themselves under that kind of pressure to change themselves or to change their universe, not only are they burned out, but nothing ever gets done. You don't change your life because every little thing you could change isn't enough... and if you want to improve the world, every little thing you do is also not good enough.

Anyway, I liked the book. I was confused in the beginning with the character of Death and the omniscient 3rd person perspective. Or was it 1st person when he was speaking? I honestly don't remember and I gave the book back wherever I borrowed it from. The Book Thief is marketed as a young adult book, but honestly... I don't see how. It's a dense book with colorful prose and a plethora of metaphors and other literary devices, some quite sophisticated. If it is, then I'm not sharp of a reader I perceived myself to be!

Back to "The Book Thief" movie. Like I said before, I liked both the book and the movie, and the movie goes well as a companion to the book. What I noticed about the movie was that they took scenes and events from the book and lifted them off the page. The introduction with Death and the death of her younger brother is exactly how I pictured it. She picks up The Grave Digger Handbook and starts her journey as a book stealer.

The movie was very well casted. They chose superb actors and actresses as well as the children to play Liesel and Rudy. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson's performances as Hans and Rosa actually gave context to how much Liesel meant to them in the book. In the book, Hans was very reserved and his love for his foster daughter came out in very subtle ways which needed to be translated for the screen. Rosa was a very difficult character to play and she nailed it. Everyone's on screen chemistry was excellent.

Now, the downsides to The Book Thief movie. The character of Death, which starts off as a narrator but turns into more of a character as the book goes on, is lost in the movie. His monologues are cut down to practically one liners. He has stirring lines at the end of the movie as he wraps up Liesel's story, but he doesn't really amount to anything other than a narrator.

The Book Thief book is also much more complex (which is why I'm still befuddled to why it's considered young adult) with much more events occurring in Nazi Germany with Liesel and Rudy, Max, the Hubermanns, Nazis and the Steiners. I completely missed that the father enlisted so that Rudy didn't have to be part of the Nazi Youth leadership because it seemed to be a 5 second scene. The movie alluded that Hans was not in favor of the Nazis, but the book really goes into Hans history and then how his actions lead to him getting drafted. There were also many other characters in the book that the movie did not cast, which characterized Nazi Germany as much more multifaceted than it did in the movie.

The movie largely focused on Liesel's story, but in the book there was Rudy's story, the Steiners, Max, the Hubermanns, and the mayor and his wife and through those stories showed the spectrum of living under a tyrannical government.

Overall, I highly recommend reading the book and watching the movie. They are both great stand alones, and one doesn't have to choose to either read or watch. I would recommend that students who read the book should also watch the movie in order to better understand the plot and Nazi era Germany. I agree with most of what the movie cut and adapted the premise of the book wonderfully.

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