Friday, 31 January 2014

THE BOOK THIEF directed by Brian Percival

The Book Thief. The Book Thief. The Book Thief.

For past week there is no other thought on my mind apart from this book. It's been a long time since a book left such an impression on me. The last time this happen, it was thanks to Holly Bourne and her debut novel SOULMATES. But that has changed and Markus Zusak's novel THE BOOK THIEF took a firm place in my mind, heart and soul. 

Actually, the reason, why I have decided to read this novel, is the trailer for this film. It caught my attention straight away.  And me being me, well you all know me, I have to find out for myself what is this book about. And I have been blown away! This story changed me.. It took me by surprise, got under my skin and hasn't let go! 

Of course, the film adaptation has been recently released in the American film market. We, people living behind the pond, have to wait a little bit longer to see it on our big screens. I couldn't wait though. There is a note made by a permanent marker in my diary, marking the 31st January (the UK official release day.)  for past three months. But I couldn't resent. I couldn't wait any longer, I had to see it. So Monday night I have been lucky enough to see it online.. (No, I didn't illegally downloaded it - I am not stupid and love the cinematography too much to do that!). 

There were some big names signed up for this project. The director himself is Hollywood's household name: Brian Percival. Add some great names like Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush. Don't for get some new sizzling ingredients like Sophie Nelisse, Ben Schnetzer or Nico Liersch. All of them acting your favourite parts from one of the best books you can ever read … and you get yourself a pretty good combo for great book adaptation. 

Well at least that's what I thought… 

Firstly I have to say that I am not going to be overly non-partial. There are reasons why I have fallen in love with this book so much and that is why I have expected big things… After couple of horrible film adaptation of books (The Mortal Insturments, The Host… just to mentioned few.. ) I had my fingers crossed that this one would be an exception.  But I was left a little bit disappointed. 

Too many changes… Too much missing…. Too many wrongly twisted parts of this novel… 

But let's start with the good points…

What a fabulous cast. Hands off for that. The two newbies with big roles to play have done very well. 

Firstly I have to mention Ben Schnetzer. Oh my, this guy is Max Vandenburg!! He breathed the life and soul to this wonderful (and one of my favourite) male character. He is Max. They couldn't pick a better actor for this important role. He is just beautiful. He says the things the right way, he gets the right looks, he winks, he smiles… there are young hearts all over the world breaking. This guy is a genius. I haven't seen a young actor who would put so much into a character but Ben somehow managed to pull this off. For an actor with not a big resume and not much experience in film industry, he did a fantastic job and I couldn't imagine better Max. I am sure that we can predict even better things from him in the future. And Ben thanks for replying to my tweet :)

Sophie Nelisse is great as Liesel. Such a young age, but so much talent. I think she played her part exceptionally. We could see the young naive Liesel and the rebellious Liesel. Sophie got hold of this character firmly and did a wonderful job. For such a young actress I have been surprised with the level and skill this girl portrayed one of the most inspiring female characters in literature. The only downside is that Liesel supposed to have brown eyes, not blue… but now I am just being pedantic. 

Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson AKA Hans and Rosa Hubermann. To be honest I must say that from these two, Emily reminded me her character the most. She was exceptional as Rosa. We could she her layers slowly peeling off. We could see the woman who is so hard from the outside but soft like a Marks & Spencer's chocolate pud inside. Even though Rosa's character has been slightly altered compare do the book, I have still enjoyed her rants and swearing. Not to mentioned that Emily gave Rosa her famous strength. Geoffrey is one of my favourite actors. And he is great as Hans but it took me a while to get used to him. It's because in my mind Hans looked, moved and spoke completely different. But I guess we all have our own imagination… Geoffrey ended up doing a fantastic job and gave Hans his own life. 

I have to also mentioned Nico Liersch. I have to thank him too. Thanks to him I started to like the character of Rudy a little bit more. Not that I didn't like Rudy in the book. I liked him, but not as much as the rest of the characters. For me he was always the third wheel. But Nico managed to make me like him. It must be the way he portrayed Rudy. He was cheeky. He was serious. He was Rudy with a little bit of extra. 

Hats off to the people who prepared the set. It was wonderful and so extra-ordinary. Somehow I am always surprised when I see sets from different times in our history. I never get excited about Avatar, but as soon as you produce something from the history which is so authentic, it always takes me by surprise. I have adored the little Himmel street set. Although it was a lot bigger that in my head. The Hubermann's house was so quirky and modest. But the most famous basement in the world was the most beautiful part. I love the big dictionary on the walls. I adored the place where Max was hiding for nearly 3 years. It was heartbreakingly beautiful and just how I imagined it. 

I have really truly enjoyed the interaction between Max and Liesel's character. Both actors played their roles so well and the relationship itself was wonderful. Cute. Sweet. Adoringly beautiful. Just what I expect from these two characters… 

But saying that, it brings me to the things which went wrong….

Dear Mr Director, what have you done??? The most important thing which made this story so unique - an original amongst the rest of similar stories - the handmade books from Max to Liesel are missing. Where are they? What have you done?? Do you actually realise that you cut out the most important part ?? And then you have done something even worse. Do you know why people around the world adore Max and Liesel's relationship? It's because their are soul mates. And you just made them different. You made the budding relationship between them - the eternal question 'Do they end up together?' - disappear. You put a label on it which crushed the film for me. You called them friends…. 

And what is with the calm voice of the Death? The way he sounds and the way he tells the story.. it's like he is telling a fairytale to the children. This story is definitely not a fairy tale… And I am sorry but the voice is wrong for the voice of Death. 

Another thing, which you screwed up and I cannot forgive you for that, is that you missed out one of the most iconic scenes in the book.. not only you didn't give Liesel her books which open her eyes to things happening around her… the most important books in her life.. but you also missed out on the scene where she sees Max marching to the concentration camp… That scene in the book made people around the world cry.. but you have decided to cut it out… no wonder that you aren't nominated for an Oscar.  

And what about the nightmares??????

What about the fact that if I wouldn't read the book the first 30 mins wouldn't make sense to me as they failed to provide setting to the story. If I wouldn't know the story, I wouldn't have clue what is it about. 

I have to stop writing because I am getting angry and disappointed again… I was so looking forward to this film. I was counting down the days to see it. But unfortunately again the people behind the script and the director failed to bring the power of the story on the big screen. If it wouldn't be for the cast, who breathed lives to their character I wouldn't bother even to get in on DVD. But they have saved the film. 

Again, thank you Ben for bringing Max to life in the most incredible way. Thank you Sophie for making Liesel - Liesel.. And Emily and Geoffrey - your talents are never fading away… 

I might need to watch this film in couple of months when I would be less biased… and maybe will see the way the director try to portray this story, but at the moment I am left heartbroken. 

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