Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The Reader

If you ever doubted that the right person won the Oscar then you should go and see The Reader immediately. Kate Winslett is amazing as Hannah Schmitz, the one time prison guard who has an affair with the young Michael (also very good) who later witnesses her war-crimes trial. [Ralph Fiennes is dull as ditchwater as the destroyed adult Michael...but maybe that was the point].

It is part of the current trend of revisiting the motivations of war criminals, and in particular the ambivalence of those who were involved in the Holocaust (see for example Robert Manne's excellent review of The Kindly Ones in the Australian Literary Review today. Manne rightly questions what ther moral point and responsibility of such work is. As does another review here)
What strikes me is the ambiguity of almost everything that happens. The woman who gives a sickly young man his first experiuence of being truly loved, and yet at the same time robs him of his the point od total destruction really).
And a woman so driven by a sense of duty that she cannot even distinguish between right and wrong. At the same time this is played off against a tribunal which has its own sense of duty and this duty seems to shun the truth. Hannah becomes their victim because she is too proud to admit her own too obvious inadequacy. Michael is given the chance to redeem her.
"What is the point?" His law professor says to him... "if your generation will not do what my generation was too afraid to do?"
It's very good!!

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