As promised, I watched The Book Thief the other night. Now before uni, I read the book by Markus Zusak – no actually, that’s wrong – I destroyed the book. I loved it. A book narrated by death, wow. It was one of my first experiences of a book that seeked in some way to push the boundaries of narrative, and it has remained one of my favourites for that reason alone. I also maintain that it’s a truly fantastic story, and anything that can be that as well as exploring a love of reading has my vote. Now since my A Level years, I’ve read a few books you might say, so some of the plot outlines are a little hazy and aside from key moments and characters, I did actually feel like I was discovering it all over again.
I still felt as transfixed by the storyline as I did the first time. I must admit, I do wonder why films have to be so long these days, but I’d also not be massively enthralled having to cram everything into two hours either. I can only imagine the hate mail some people receive for adaptations like Harry Potter. However, though it was long, it was also very enjoyable, and the setting was quite idyllic. Perhaps a little idyllic at times.
I think Geoffrey Rush was an absolutely fantastic choice for Papa – from the outset he was the kind of man you’d want as your Dad, and Mama did a good job of turning herself around too. And the two kids – brilliant acting and the characters were just perfect. But I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – sometimes things just seem better in your head. When I read the narration by death, I can’t say there was one particular voice which I heard it in, and although I did think the choice of actor was relatively sound, I still think it loses something when transcribed onto the screen. When you’re reading it, you don’t need to worry about what sounds clunky, whether putting the emphasis on one word and not the other makes it sound overly comedic.
I must say I am surprised by the overwhelmingly negative reviews by the broadsheets, as even though I don’t necessarily think it deserved five stars all round, I think one star by The Guardian was a harsh review by a critic trying to make a point. Peter Bradshaw moaned it had little of the poignancy about the war that Schindler’s List has and I’d agree. But we cannot make films and write novels based on the war covering the same ground over and over, and whilst I agree that a lot of the war was left unexplored – notably the concentration camps – the realities of Jews beaten in the street and shops looted was not left untouched. But to say we should stop talking about the war is equally absurd. It is also a young adult’s book, told from a euphemistic child’s perspective and I feel a lot of the themes reflect this, and reflect it very well indeed.
Overall, as an adaptation of a book I adored, I think it did an alright job. I probably won’t watch it again, but I did shed a few tears this time. Though I think the addition of a few years inbetween my first read and viewing will always help a tetchy bookie like myself