Last week me and Cat went to see The Book Thief. It’s one of the films I’ve been dying to see since it was released in the US. The book is one of my all time favourites and I love everything about it. In this sense seeing the film scared me… A lot. What if the film has been destroyed through all the changes that might have to be made? We all know what happens with artistic license in films.
I’m here to tell you that it was fantastic. The film and storyline made it easier to picture certain scenes from the book but to me that wasn’t the best part. It was the cast that made the film perfect. Sometimes when you watch a film you find yourself hating or loving an actor because of what they’ve done to the character. In The Book Thief you’ll find Liesel, Hans and Rosa fit Markus Zusak’s character profiles brilliantly, even Death fits in well.
Now what would The Book Thief be without Death? Nothing. Death is integral to the film has he is to the book. During Death’s narration we found ourselves wracking our brains because we knew the voice from somewhere. Roger Allam voices Death and his lovely voice makes you feel all at ease, quite like some of us weirdly felt during Death’s time in the book. Allam has been in just about everything British and US audiences may recognise him from his short time in Game of Thrones.
Onto the main characters…
I fell in love with Sophie Nélisse’s portrayal of Liesel Meminger. I’ve never seen Nélisse in anything before but her face will stick with me forever. Her eyes are stunning and draw you into her on the screen. She fits what I came to expect of Liesel though out the film; quiet but confident, a good friend with knowledge beyond her years but, most importantly, she fit the genre of the film like she’d actually lived through it. We all know these are emotional films to make yet the way she play’s Liesel is full of emotion for a child of her age. She’s not scared of the role or detached from it and when you watch certain emotional scenes she doesn’t struggle, she draws off those actors around her. Sophie Nélisse is someone to look out for if her role in this film is anything to go by.
I’ve always been a big fan of Geoffrey Rush and we all know who he is. When it was first announced that The Book Thief had been optioned it was like no one could begin to speculate who would play who. When Rush was announced to play Hans Hubermann no one complained. Everyone knew he could pull it off. Hans is exactly how he is in the book and it’s all down to how Rush plays him. He plays such a playful, helpful soul with a big heart, enough to encompass everyone around him. It was fun to see him being berated by his wife but watch him still be the man of the house (even though we know that’s technically Rosa.) We’ve seen Rush play all types of roles and he made this one work for him too although after watching the film and re-reading the book I’m convinced the role was made for him. Rush and Nélisse’s pairing as father and daughter was brilliant casting because of the way they acted and had fun together. Just look at the way they smile (in the films momentary happy moments) and bond over sadness when it occurs.
Rosa Hubermann, in the book, reminds me of a few of my German friends Oma’s (grandma’s) They take no crap from no one and you do as you’re told or else. Might sound strange to us but I’ve seen them in action and they are basically leader’s of the household. Rosa is played by Emily Watson in the film and she certainly pulls off this demeanour throughout the film, even seeming harsh when she’s trying to be loving. She has a few choice phrases throughout the film which definitely brought a smile to my face, she calls Liesel Saumensch a lot through the film which means “female pig”. Watson keeps Rosa on the same level as the book by making her strict but not abusive. You can imagine the upheaval caused bringing an unknown child and then man into the house but Watson quietly but surely shows us that Rosa does have a heart and does care in her own way. The relationship she has with Rush is fantastic and the fact that everyone outside the household knows she’s boss really makes clear the divides in society at that time.
So these four are the characters that really set the film apart for me. I could probably go on forever about them that’s why I’m not writing too much on Rudy and Max. I don’t think they really need words because they fit what Zusak cast in the book. Nico Liersch plays Liesel’s best friend Rudy and will have you crying by the end of the film. He makes you remember young love. Ben Schnetzer takes on the role of Max and gives a very believable performance of a man not just on the run and in hiding but misses the real world and things we, today, take for granted.
The film is well worth seeing even if you haven’t read the book and will give you a great insight into the other side of WWII. There’s also a chance you’ll shed some tears, you’ve been warned.