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Saturday, 3 May 2014

Book VS. Movie: The Book Thief

Dear friends,

** WARNING!!! This post contains a review of The Book Thief . This post contains spoilers so in case you did not see this movie or read the book by Markus Zusak - shame on you! - and you hate people who spoil things... well... you can pass this one. But you shouldn't ;) Don't forget to grab a box of napkins with you, this will get emotional! **

As you know, I am a huge fan of books and movies. It comes to no surprise the fact that I also love history. When I first heard of the movie The Book Thief I just knew that I had to read the book first. I wanted to develop the story and the characters in my mind, not be fed the lies/distorsions that usually happen on the big screen. I managed to see just the trailer which intrigued me even more, but I was still not able to find the book in English so I may buy it. When I went with my awesome husband in the trip to Koln I almost let it slip through my fingers! When we were going to Koln we saw it everywhere, at every corner, but when we came back there was no sight of it and we searched through the whole Frankfurt airport for it! I finally managed to bump into it in the last 20 min before the flight, when I was looking for the airport toilets. Now that is what I can call providence! :) I read it fast and furiously as I wanted to see what happened next to Liesel and what other things Death would tell us - as in case you did not know, Death itself is the narrator of this enchanting story. I started and finished the book in March but I managed to see the movie only in the beginning of April. They both let me out of breath and out of tears...
Now I may not be the very best person to review movies or books what what I say I say from my heart and I mean it. I love the way the movie starts with Death beginning the story and with the silver clouds transforming into the white snow on the plains & the appereance of the train tracks and the dark train that brings Liesel Meminger to us. As in the book we see her stealing her first book at her brothers funeral - her brother dies on the train in her mothers arms. Her mother payed Hans and Rosa Hubermann to take care of her and her brother as she was hunted as being a communist. Right as in the book we see Hans welcoming Liesel at the car door, and inviting her to come out - and he is the only one who manages to get her out.
I was very disturbed over how Rosa was portrayed in the movie. In her first scene she is calling Liesel's mother (and Liesel) a "filthy communist" that drags children half way through the country, unwashed and unfed, only to kill one of them. "I was promised two children, two allowances"! Where did all this came from? Rosa would never say such a thing, as brutal and verbally tough as she was in the book. And where is the washing scene? Where is the bonding that grows since the very first moment between Hans and Liesel? Where is Hans showing Liesel how to roll up cigarettes instead of taking a bath as she was dirty from the train/trip? I really missed that in the movie... And why is Liesel singing herself to sleep? And how come Hans plays the accordeon with the same tune? Where are Liesel's nightmares about her brother and mother? Where is Hans comforting and soothing her each night by playing the accordeon? That was all the point of the relationship and showing them growing their love for eachother!
And from where does Rosa's line come from?! "What makes you think you are good enough for my daughter?" - that was said to Rudy, Liesel's new friend/boyfriend/companion. And why does Rudy even come to pick her for school the first day she is there? This was not in the book and makes me weird to think Rosa immediately calls Liesel daughter and takes ownership over her and her potential love-life. Not to mention the next scene from school where Liesel is just instructed "Chalk. Board. Name. Write it!" by her teacher. We find here that Liesel does not even know how to write. As far as I remember the book, she was very much able to do that and recognise certain words.
Now I really must admit I quite love the actors chosen for the parts in the movie. Even the German accent is adorable! But one of the very things I have noticed about Rudy was that his love shown in the movie was extremely pushy and to a certain point very irritating. Thank God Max has its entrance and starts to balance things up! Though it is a bit abrupt - his friend just givens him the train tickets in a Mein Kampf book and send him on his way while he leaves his mother to be killed/taken to Auschwitz. Well where is Max's isolation? Struggle with himself and leaving the ones he loved? Where is it?! In the book we read of his solitude and of his fright of moving too fast so people would hear him. We hear of him staying in the darkness of the room and shaving for his trip with the train, being afraid of the outside after staying so long without any human contact... He is brought up to the bed in Liesel's room, which should have been her brothers. Which brings me to the question: where is the basement?! He should have been taken directly there! That is how the book had it! And where are the writings on the wall in the basement? (well... still... do not worry about that, we see them later on, totally way later than the book told us about it!) We see Hans bringing Liesel down in the basement (and btw this is one of my fav scenes in the movie!) and saying "Come, I have a surprise for you!" and shows her the walls filled with letters: "It's a dictionary. Some of the words we have learned. Add as many as you like!" :)
Another thing I liked in the books, but it came in also as a lovely surprise in the movie, was the scene where Rudy runs all painted in black as his hero: Jesse Owens. But one huge minus! Where is the public? In the book we know all the town knew about it and that many people saw him run all smeared in black saying he is Jesse! Here only one old man who ends up pulling his ear and dragging him to his dad appears...
The burning books scene is also heartbreaking and brilliant. The whole speech held by the mayor/party leader is very exhilarating and as it is done in German so much the better! I love how the producers actually used as much as they could the German language + German accent. Even if one does not know the language one can realise all the hatred and conviction with which people followed the lead of the ones that wanted the "end of communists and jews" alike! Though I did not like one part that is not in the book. A boy from the Young Hitler Group gives them forbidden books to burn in the huge mound of forbidden items and watches them as they do so... I think Liesel would not be able to burn a book as she loved words and stories so much...
"My mother isn't coming back, is she?" / "Did the Fuhrer take her away?" - Liesel realises her mother will no longer come for her and that Rosa and Hans are the only family that she has. It is a said moment as she writes letters to her mom and waits for answer only to realise the truth that noone told her: she is all alone in this world. But thank God that does not stay like that for too long. As she was reading The Invisible Man by H.G.Wells - "The stranger came early in February.." - we see Max entering the scene. Again I do not like the way Rosa was constructed in the movie in certain scenes. When Max comes in the middle of the night and after they settle him in she states "we can turn him in tomorrow" and just say he was late at night and all police stations were closed... Really?! She was in the book more protective of Liesel and Max than anyone else! As big as her mouth was as large was her heart!
I found it really funny the moments in which Liesel said in the movie "Did you steal it?!" She addresses this question to Max, concerning his book - Mein Kampf, and to Hans, concerning his accordeon. It is as if she believes everyone steals something in their life. And maybe we do, we steal love and life and kisses and moments with the ones we love... What I found weird is that in the movie Max and Liesel sleep in the same room. Max was supposed to sleep in the basement and Liesel upstairs. Eh! Another thing that just adds up to my complaints list is the fact that Rosa just hands down the clothes one day to Liesel to deliver to the mayors house. She never walks with her to show her the way and the people and introduce her. She never teaches Liesel to whom she should give the laundry... just hand over the basket and you will figure it out! Neah! This is not well done! The book showed it much more logical and better! Not to mention the "So you like books? Come!" line from the mayors wife - Ilsa - that just drags her in to show her the library from the very first moment she meets her! Sure, it is safe to bring in your house/library a girl whom you seen stealing books from the bonfire! And for sure the line "You are a brave girl Liesel" does the trick ;) They just introduce to eachother and Ilsa Hermann tells her to come back anytime... (totally not by the book!)
Liesel discovers the writing on the books with the name of a boy."Who's Johann?" asks Liesel. Ilsa tells her "This is all him. Everything he knew. All in its place" - reffering to the huge library. Then Ilsa tells her about the death of her son... her loss... and we found out that "a mother never gives up on her child". That ideea makes Liesel sad as her mother, maybe in her oppinion, abandoned her. Her question when she reached home jumps to Hans: "Do you think my mother really loved me?" How can you relax a struggled heart like that?... Thank God for Rudy and Rosa and Max and Hans. They are the closest thing she could call family... But still another thing bothers me in the movie - where do the bed talk conversations between Max and Liesel come from? They were never in the book as they never slept in the same room - if would not have been proper! Rosa - in the movie - proposes to put him downstairs in order for the neighbours not to see him. Well... hello! In the book he was already there!
Another thing totally outside of the book is Ilsa Hermann's husband. In the book we see only her and no involvement from any other members of the household. Here, in the movie, we see her husband more often than we would like! He bumps into Ilsa and Liesel while they are both reading in the library and due to that they dismiss Rosa. The sad part is that in the movie the fault was entirely on Liesel's side but in the book it is nothing like that! The Hermann's just choose not to do their laundry anymore with Rosa as the War was there and they needed to cut costs.
We don't see why Rudy's father goes away to war and I was sad due to that! Hans and Rudy's father were supposed to go to war together, at the same time, for 2 separate reasons from what we saw in the movie - Hans gave bread to one of the jews marching to a concentration camp and Rudy's father did not want to leave Rudy in the hands on the Nazis who were trying to breed and create the perfect arians (Rudy winning all the time in the running contests did not help!). And what do I hear?! Rudy's father informs him that HE! made a suit for Rudy's 14th birthday but unfortunately he will not be there to give him it!? Really?! In the movie Liesel comes with the ideea of stealing the suit for him! And how come after his father leaves his mother accepts Rudy to join the elite training in the summer? Just as easy as 1-2-3!
"I've made you a Christmas gift. It's all I had" - says Max giving Liesel the Mein Kampf, which turns out to be repainted write. It turns out to be white and the blank pages are for Liesel to fill. "Write" is written in Hebrew on the first page of the book and Max encourages her to say her story there. I am glad they kept the building the snowman scene, where Max-Liesel-Hans-Rosa have a great time in building a snowman in the basement with snow smuggled by Liesel and Hans. I love Rosa joining in and throwing snowballs as well :) Max soon after that falls ill and instead of getting him upstairs, in the warmth, in Liesel's room - as the book states - we see him in the basement still! Why does Liesel put her brothers picture on his chest? And why do we keep seeing the mayor?! We never hear of him in the book! Not to mention another scene that made me upset: "Who's Max? Who is he? Is he your boyfriend?" says Rudy, after catching Liesel's diary. Woah! Where did that came from? Rudy is not supposed to know anything of this and Liesel does not tell anyone in the book. How come she is just spilling on the beans now?! And what's with the fight on the bridge and throwing the Mein Kampf in the river? And where are Liesel's gifts for Max? Every day Liesel - in the book - brought Max gifts and stories that kept him alive! And why does Liesel tell Max that she told Rudy?
Where are the scenes with the jews from the camps? In the movie they got transformed into only 1 man who was half jew?! And where is the champagne scene where the family has no other way of paying Hans than with champagne and Liesel gets to taste the sparkiling miracle and remembers that day as one of her best memories/experiences with Hans! 
Oh! But worry not! A grand plus for me in this movie was the way that they made the first bombing scene. We see Max coming out of the house into the empty streets and gazing at the stars while we hear Hans playing the accordion in the basement full with people. Another great scene is the first night of Hans being gone to war and Rosa hugs his accordion and falls asleep with it... giving her the sense of comfort and that a part of Hans still being there with them!
Where is the stealing band from the book? Where are the real Rudy-Liesel adventures where they go out and steal apples and stuff themselves as they are too hungry and have no money for extra food?! I really loved their experiences in the book. They relationship is quite quick and abrupt and sometimes plain weird. "I'm not ready. I want to grow up before I die" - Rudy. "You're all I've got, Rudy" - Liesel (from the conversation when Rudy wants to run away with Liesel).
November 1942 - "Bombs thicken".
In the midst of the heavy bombing Liesel starts telling her story. "What are you doing?" - Rudy. "I'm telling a story" - Liesel. In the movie she is telling the story, not reading from the book. Another plus is the scene with Hans in the army BUT! we do not see how he eluded Death for one last time, just by playing cards and being an amazing camarad - you have to read the book for that :p I ain't gonna spill the beans this time! Finally towards the end of the movie we see the jews march through the town and Liesel going insane searching for Max through them. No luck...
The heartbreaking moment is coming closer and the narrator - Death - opens itself more and more. Hans has his first line was "Good day, your Majesty" when he offers his hands to a frightened Liesel inside the car. His last line closes the circle: "Good night, your Majesty" And then all hell breaks loose with the bombing of Heaven Street. We hear how Death collected each and everyones soul except Liesel's... she was in the basement, writing inside her diary... the alarms never went off and the bombs catched everyone in their beds. One thing I do not understand: why did the producers had Rudy still alive after the bombing? Just to die in front of Liesel? Why would you do that?!? She finds her diary between the rubble and Ilsa and her husband come to inspect the premises and Liesel runs & hugs Ilsa out of the blue... well... not quite, considering she was the only person she knew that was still alive, but this is totally not by the book!
US Troops Occupy Germany 1945 - 2 years pass and we see Rudy's father and Liesel running the shop. Max appears and the two of them get locked in a warm embrace. The story told by Death fastforwards into the end of Liesel's life. Death comes for Liesel and greets her as an old friend at the age of 90 with 3 children and several granchildren and thousands upon thousands of people whose souls were touched by her stories. Closing with the silvery clouds from the beginning...

Yours truly,
A LadyBug That Truly Believes You Must Read The Book Thief :)