The Reader is a drama about a boy, Michael, who is helped by a woman, Hanna, after he starts suffering from scarlet fever. After he recovers, he visits Hanna, a tram ticket inspector, to thank her for her kindness. They begin an intense affair over a summer, during which Michael reads her books. Hanna disappears from Michael’s life as sudden as she enters it, but their time together causes Michael to have difficulty in making new relationships. He later attends a law degree and visits a courtroom case. He is shocked to discover Hanna is a defendant and the court case is for war crimes carried out at a concentration camp during the war. Hanna is convicted of writing a report that outlines her and other guards activities, particularly, covering a church that is burned down containing many prisoners after they lock the doors. It materialises that Hanna is actually illiterate so couldn’t have written the report, but she is sentenced to a life imprisonment and Michael sends her taped recordings of books. He does marry and has a daughter but never speaks of Hanna. As Hanna ages in prison, she eventually is up for release and Michael meets her a week before. On the day of her release, she hangs herself, having learnt to read.
It’s a well directed story and Kate Winslet, who plays Hanna, won an academy award for her portrayal and rightly so. Ralph Fiennes plays the older Michael, a man in pain and lost in memories. David Kross plays the younger naive Michael who struggles to either convince Hanna to admit to being illiterate or to let her serve her sentence. There’s a lot of social commentary here too, the professor claiming that justice is not about morality but about the law of the time. So the act of the death camps in the second world war is about whether it was illegal murder or not, though he admits the perpetrators knew what was right and wrong. One of the students exclaims how he is appalled by his parents taking part in the war and wants nothing to do with them.
It made me think about crime and bringing people to justice. Should people be punished for a crime they committed 10, 20 or 30yrs or more ago. They are different people today, but they still committed a crime and probably knew that at the time. An excellent drama, recommended to watch.