The casting forThe Reader was superb. When I read the book, I was picturing in my mind someone such as Liv Ullman as Hanna Schmitz. Kate Winslet was perfect casting for Hanna. The author of the book had Ms. Winslet in mind from when he first wrote the story. Ralph Fiennes and David Kross were also excellent casting as the older and younger Michael Berg, respectively. I am not a film connoisseur, but the way the movie was filmed (colors and lighting) made a huge difference, I am sure, in the whole look and mood of the film.
Bernhard Schlink is the author of a few other books and is a lawyer and professor and was a judge in Germany. He was born in 1944, making him part of the first German generation after World War II. The story he wrote is partly autobiographical.
Fifteen-year-old Michael is on his way home from school and meets Hanna as he is resting near her doorway from being sick. She helps him and he makes it home only to find out he has scarlet fever. When he has recuperated for months, he goes to thank Hanna and the 36-year-old transit worker seduces him. They have an affair over the course of the summer of 1958 and as they spend time together, she asks him to read to her the books he is studying. These range from Homer to Chekov. Hanna gets promoted at the transit system and abandons Michael and the little flat she lived in.
Years later Michael is in law school and the seminar class he is taking goes to court to watch a trial of some Nazi prison guards and Hanna is one of them. Even more later, Michael corresponds with Hanna once again. I will not say anything more about the story as to not give anything away.
I will say that the book leaves its readers asking all kinds of questions dealing with the people that worked in the concentration camps and who carried out the orders of the Nazis, the next generation of Germans and how the war has affected them and later generations, and lastly, level of education and how it perhaps relates to each person’s understanding of good and evil.
Only the gray area is left to ponder after reading this book and seeing this film . . .