by Nadin P.
“Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.”
― Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger
My love for The Book Thief started a few years ago with this quote when I came across it sometime or another. The quote that wasn’t even from The Book Thief, but it made me curious about Zusak and his work. And, not to be vain or anything, The Book Thief had the word ‘book’ in the title. I had to check it out!
Somehow, for better or for worse, it ended up being one of my favorite books. It was tragic, heartbreaking, and so beautifully written it made me wonder what I had to do to become as great a writer as Markus Zusak when I grow up.
The Book Thief follows the life of a young girl Liesel Meminger who lives in Nazi Germany in the 40’s. Liesel is sent to live with a foster family when her mother can’t afford keeping Liesel and her brother anymore (which we later learn is only a part of the story). Tragically, Liesel’s brother dies during the trip. At the graveyard after the funeral, Liesel finds a book that belonged to the gravedigger and keeps it. Later, this book, which is basically a set of grave-digging instructions, becomes the first book Liesel ever reads, as well as the first book that sparks her love for learning and reading and, essentially, finding herself.
Zusak’s portrayal of the beauty of Liesel’s soul is fascinating to say the least, and as tragic and heartbreaking as the rest of the story at times. The war is never easy, there is hunger and poverty and bombs flying around; and on top of all that, Liesel’s foster father hides a Jewish man named Max in the basement because he’s promised Max’s father to take care of him. Needless to say that the book is a page-turner that will keep you up all night if you let it.
The most interesting and intriguing part, however, was that the book was narrated by… Death. How cool is that? How cool is the idea that Death might be following each and every one of us, every day, every moment of our lives, watching, waiting? And not in a creepy way but as a part of a circle of life. How cool is it that Death might know something about us that we have no idea about?
To say that I was excited about the adaptation is a huge understatement. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I looked forward to a book adaptation, holding my breath.
Now, to make some things clear – I am not, never was and probably never will be a fan of adaptations per se, seeing as how few of them are actually justified. The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, Interview With The Vampire, and, well, about 50 others made over the past 90-something years – yes. PS I Love You – probably not so much. As far as my biased opinion goes, if the movie makes the story bigger – visually or otherwise – go for it! If the movie cuts out chunks of important information because it can’t be conveyed visually or through the dialogue – why bother? (I will not talk about 50 Shades, I will not talk about 50 Shades…).
Which is why it’s safe to say that I was equally excited and worried about The Book Thief. Personally, I find it rather ridiculous when people say – the movie ruined the book for me. It is not possible. First of all, don’t judge a book by its movie, as they say. Secondly, and more importantly, it is not, absolutely not possible for a film to be better than the book, period. Lower your expectations and have fun! That said, however, the movie can, in fact, make the wrong impression and make people not want to pick up the book. Now this is something I was anxious about.
In the long run, The Book Thief did not disappoint me. It managed to convey the tragedy, simple happiness, fear and cruelty of people that were stuck in time and place they didn’t necessarily want to be, all that shown through some seriously beautiful cinematography. And, hands down, Sophie Nélisse, a Canadian actress born in Quebec why played Liesel, absolutely stole the film.
The only issue I had with The Book Thief, and it was a pretty big one, too, was with Death’s narration which was a major part of the book, but which was criminally underused in the film. In the film it was used randomly and sporadically, and had I not known the story, it would probably take me forever to figure out what was going on. As much as the voiceover is generally not welcome in the movies, in The Book Thiefit would have been absolutely justified. I was surprised they didn’t go all the way for it.
Other than that, however, the film was a pleasant surprise. Unlike the other Mary Susie who so graciously accompanied me to the screening, I didn’t find it particularly long, although I could totally see where Anais was coming from when she mentioned it. I guess having read the book and knowing where the story was going made the experience a bit different.
All in all, I am absolutely putting this film on my Must See and Recommend Without Reservation shelf! Check it out, you won’t regret it!