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</script></div>{/googleAds}What do you get when you put together great casting, scripting, directing and acting? A flawless film that is phenomenally profound. Director Stephen Daldry may not have many films to his credit, but when he makes one, be prepared for a compelling yet complex work of art.

In almost epic proportions, the main plot begins in 1958 Neustadt, West Germany, where 15 year old Michael Berg (David Kross), encounters love and lust for the first time when he befriends Hanna Schmitz. As Hanna is more than twice his age, this illicit physical relationship gathers momentum when she gets her young lover to read entire volumes of literature before making love. Michael's childish infatuation slowly manifests into love and devotion for Hanna, despite her occasional mood swings. Their affair then comes to an abrupt halt when she suddenly decides to pack her belongings and leave, leaving Michael distraught and lost. Shortly after, his personal life tumbles into disarray, even isolating himself from girls within his peer group. Eight years later as a law student, Michael observes a trial where former SS guards of the Auschwitz camp are tried for war crimes during the holocaust. To his utter horror, Hanna is the main defendant for her involvement in letting 300 Jews burn to death. As the trial concludes, she reluctantly confesses making a full report on the atrocities of the Auschwitz concentration camp, earning herself a life sentence. Although Michael notices a glaring discrepancy in the case with a possibility of saving Hannah, he succumbs to the tainted memory of their forbidden relationship and the likelihood that she may be a monster the court room claims her to be. Years later, an adult Michael (Ralph Fiennes) receives a call from a prison official asking his help in Hanna's return to society after her scheduled release. But she has other plans. Besides an incredible personal achievement while in prison, she now has nothing to look forward to, except one last chance at redemption.

The ReaderAs Hanna Schmitz, this is Kate Winslet's defining moment as a leading actress. This is also Winslet as you have never seen before; dark, moody, mysterious and sensual. Ralph Fiennes also delivers, but is over shadowed by Kross as the plot revolves around the latter's coming of age role, giving Fiennes lesser screen time. Special praise goes to Daldry and screen writer David Hare for their adaptation of a post World War II novel by the same name. The film was received well amongst critics, but posed a controversy for erotic scenes depicted by a minor. As sex and nudity was an essential component when adapting for the screen, the film makers have certainly used a good level of discretion with angles of exposure coupled with subtle lighting, bringing out an artistic touch to the naked human form, rather than a pornographic approach.

While this is not another holocaust movie by itself, the key aspects under consideration is the power of the human spirit against all odds. That message is loud and clear towards the end, emphasizing the fact that what ever the hardship, where there is a will, there is always a way. Co-produced by the late Sydney Pollack, this film received five Academy Award nominations including Winslet's first Oscar as a leading actress. Of the two movies she starred in 2008, I find myself unable to decide which of her roles is better. As April Wheeler in Revolutionary Road, she is nothing short of powerful, while simultaneously playing a totally different character in Hanna Schmitz. Both films are a definite must-see, just so you can judge for your self why Kate Winslet is currently Hollywood's top leading lady.

Component Grades
4 stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
4 stars


DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 1.85:1

Language and Sound: English: Dolby True HD; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; trailer; and more.


* Commentary
o None
* Featurettes
o Adapting a Timeless Masterpiece: Making The Reader
o A Conversation with David Kross & Stephen Daldry
o Kate Winslet on the Art of Aging Hanna Schmitz
o A New Voice: A look at Composer Nico Muhly
o Coming to Grips With the Past" Production Designer Brigitte
* Deleted Scenes
* Previews - Original theatrical trailer

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging