It was on my list of this year’s highly anticipated movies because I loved the book so much. Even after the film ended I still felt invested in it, personally savoring much of my knowledge in the poetic symbolisms or episodic storytelling that people who’ve not read the narrative might have wondered about. The movie is too simplistic to fully describe the complicated life of a bookworm living under the Nazi regime, much more breathe the same air with a rogue Jew hiding in their own home. The adaptation still was visually beautiful, which of course, just had to highlight the best scenarios, figuratively slices of the eventful life of Leisel Meminger. Geoffrey Rush (Hans Hubermann), as expected, was the tender and affectionate Papa, and how I wished there were MORE of their reading lessons that the devoted stepfather allotted till the break of day, more hugs in the dead of night to show how long Leisel had to recover from her brother’s death and in being in a different home. Instead, the screenplay focused more on the friendship of Leisel and Max as contrast to the outside world that forbids such relations and how such love for the written word can transform and create more worlds for its reader. Literature is clearly Leisl and Max’s savior in their times of distress, and their imaginations were lifelines in keeping them alive in a world that literally and figuratively wanted them dead. I also wished, however, that Max’s gift in the movie was not a blank journal (spoiler alert), but instead the short story he drew and made for the girl who saved his life.
The tragic event at the end of it all still pinched my heart, and Death’s stroll on Himmel Street (Himmel, translated in English, is heaven) was like a walk in a park with sugarcoated consequences. Audiences who expect a harsher depiction of Nazi-Germany village life will be downright disappointed. Critics have disapproved of this “too pretty” presentation, but if the intention was to provide faces and visual representations and just sneak peeks into their lives, then the adaptation suffices. The visual format and the constraints that it poses in this lengthy written narrative which even I have trouble re-reading as fast as I could before watching the film is a real hurdle. I’m not too disappointed, but I admit that finishing the re-read of the book will complete my experience left by the gaps in what I saw. The novel is much more powerful (and painful) that my youngest sister was bawling at the end (my Christmas gift to her). Will I still recommend seeing the movie? Of course. It will make you more curious of the novel, which is always a good thing (to make readers out of you).