based on book, Der Vorleser.
In Germany, 1958, Michael Berg is feeling unwell. He wanders through the streets for a while before almost collapsing in the entrance to an apartment block. He vomits. A passing woman helps him out. She cleans up after him and helps get him home. It turns out that he has scarlet fever and remains bed-ridden for a number of months. Once he feels better he returns to thank the woman, and ends up having an affair with her.
The film is told in flashbacks. And in 1966 we meet up with Michael Berg again. He is attending law school and as part of his course he attends the trial of a group of Nazi guards who are accused of letting 300 women die in a fire. One of those on trial is Hanna Schmitz, the woman he had the affair with.
To be honest I’m not totally sure what to make of this film. I’m not sure what it is trying to say. We have the horrors of the holocaust. We have the generation gap between the Germans who were alive during Nazi Germany and their children who must live with the fact that their parents, their relatives, the entire elder generation must shoulder at least some of the blame. And we have illiteracy. And then there is the unhealthy relationship between Michael and Hanna. If the ages and genders were reversed and an older man having such a relationship with a much younger girl I’m sure the reaction would be much different.
It is a film that is well worth watching. But you will come away with just this almost overwhelming sense of sadness. There is little enough sense of a resolution or conclusion. Just, well, I suppose helplessness. Michael can do nothing to help Hanna. The fact is that she was an SS guard! Should he even try to help her? He doesn’t know. Is the truth that important or is the perception of justice being delivered more important?