Director: Stephen Daldry

Cast: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes

The Buzz: Nominated in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography categories

The Run: Won Golden Globe for Best Supporting (!) Actress

The Reader

Slow And Steady

Everything about The Reader is ambiguous. Even the title betrays us. Does it refer to the person who is reading out or the one who is actually “reading”? We are left searching for meaning among the seemingly divergent threads of the film. Even Roger Deakins’ beautiful images eschew from providing a coherent motif to the film. Early on in the film, a professor remarks that the western literature is characterized by secrets. That people in power are the ones with secrets. Right here, he may just have talked about he Reader itself. A quiet and powerful film that vehemently opposes black and white explanation.

What begins with a Truffaut-like tone shifts gears to become one of the best character studies of recent years. The plot follows the surreptitious affair between a teenager Michael and an ex-Nazi prison guard Hanna. Hanna is illiterate and seems to be indulging Michael only because he reads books to her. She is extremely inarticulate. Inarticulate because she does not know words that conceal her true thoughts. Inarticulate because she does not know words that express these feelings either. She is fascinated by things that verbalize or visualize those. Ebert mentions in his insightful review on the film that the movie is all about decisions. Damn right he is. Each decision one takes is a resolution of the conflict between one’s own conscience and others’, especially if the latter projects as a mass sentimentality. Daldry sticks to the cinematic proverb “show not tell” till death as he deliberately keeps all the vital points of the film low-key fearlessly.

The Reader was a very difficult film for me to come to terms with. They say a great film begins after the last frame. As the end credits rolled, I was furious for the Academy to have selected five unworthy contenders for the biggie this year. But it was a matter of days before the film began revealing itself. Everything began to make sense. And it became clear that Daldry may just be the man of the year at the Oscars.