4.1 27
Director: Stephen Daldry

Cast: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross


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Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes star in The Hours director Stephen Daldry's haunting period drama concerning the relationship between a 15-year-old German boy and a mysterious woman twice his age, and the way that it grows doubly complex whenSee more details below


Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes star in The Hours director Stephen Daldry's haunting period drama concerning the relationship between a 15-year-old German boy and a mysterious woman twice his age, and the way that it grows doubly complex when the man reencounters the woman years later and discovers a shocking truth about her past. Based on author Bernhard Schlink's best-selling novel of the same name, the film opens on the character of Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) in middle age -- cold, remote, and emotionally withdrawn. It then moves back in time to 1950s Berlin, where ailing teenager Michael (now played by David Kross) has fallen ill with fever, and is discovered in the street by Hanna, a woman in her thirties. After Michael recovers, the two immediately lapse into a torrid affair and Michael falls prey to the confusion of his own burgeoning sexuality. Their liaisons are often marked by Hanna's request that Michael read to her (hence the title). Later, when Michael returns to Hanna's flat and finds it deserted, her absence becomes an emotional blow for which he is completely unprepared, and indeed, scarred for life. The film then moves forward in time by eight years. Michael -- now a law student -- walks into a courtroom and comes across Hanna, one of a series of Nazi prison guards being tried for murderous war crimes during World War II. As he watches her on the witness stand, memories of their past experiences together bring him to the point of realization concerning a startling, long-buried truth about Hanna -- and Michael knows that if he divulges this information, it could modify the prison sentence handed out and dramatically alter her fate.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Jason Buchanan
Completely riveting, yet about as emotionally distant as the chilly former concentration camp guard portrayed in the film by Kate Winslet, director Stephen Daldry's Oscar-bait follow up to his 2002 award winner, The Hours, stays coolly detached despite featuring some pretty steamy sex scenes and dealing with a highly confrontational subject matter. Still, emotional impact is admittedly not the be-all and end-all of a great film, and those in search of an absorbing, intellectually stimulating study of German Holocaust guilt will certainly have something to talk about after the credits roll. The story opens in post-World War II Germany, where young student Michael Berg (David Kross) has fallen ill with scarlet fever while walking home from school. Gently guided home by a compassionate older woman named Hanna (Winslet), Michael convalesces for a few months before returning to Hanna's apartment with a bouquet of flowers. Before long, the two have become lovers: Hanna instructing Michael in the methods of pleasing a woman, and Michael reciprocating by reading her the classical texts he's been assigned in school. Later, when the relationship grows contentious and Hanna vanishes without a trace, Michael moves on to study law, eventually attending a class field trip to a German court where a group of female former concentration camp guards are being tried for war crimes. The defendant bearing most of the brunt in the trial is Hanna. She stands accused by her fellow guards of being the leader who ordered that a group of Jewish prisoners be contained in a church that was bombed into oblivion, killing everyone unfortunate enough to be locked inside at the time. Upon realizing that the very same woman whom he slept with as a teenager was complicit in the murder of hundreds of innocent Jews, Michael discovers that Hanna has accepted the charges against her in order to prevent an embarrassing truth about herself from being revealed to the court. The Reader begins as one type of film and ends as something else entirely -- effectively blindsiding the viewer as it takes a sharp turn from erotic tale of sexual awakening to austere meditation on cultural culpability. Fortunately for the viewer, both aspects of the film are expertly scripted and beautifully acted, ensuring our undivided attention even when we aren't entirely certain where the story is headed. Those willing to play along are rewarded with a film that is consistently watchable thanks in large part to strong leading performances. German newcomer Kross is a natural, while his seasoned co-star Winslet conveys her character's complexity with graceful candor. However, the film is strangely unaffecting due to a marked lack of focus in storytelling. Each plotline has the makings of an interesting, involving movie, though in the end (and admittedly not being familiar with the book) it feels as if the screenwriter, David Hare, couldn't decide which aspect of Bernhard Schlink's novel he liked most, and chose to simply split the story down the middle. Whether the source material or Hare's tinkering is to blame for the fact that the story keeps the viewer at arm's length, the end result is still the same: a film that's technically superb, yet still falls short of true greatness.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Weinstein Company
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Deleted scenes; Adapting a Timeless Masterpiece: Making The Reader; A Conversation with David Kross & Stephen Daldry; Kate Winslet on the Art of Aging Hanna Schmitz; A New Voice: A Alook at Composer Nico Muhly; Coming to Grips With the Past" Production Designer Brigitte; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kate Winslet Hanna Schmitz
Ralph Fiennes Michael Berg
David Kross Young Michael Berg
Bruno Ganz Professor Rohl
Matthias Habich Peter Berg
Susanne Lothar Carla Berg
Karoline Herfurth Marthe
Alexandra Maria Lara Young Ilana Mather
Volker Bruch Dieter
Burghart Klaußner Judge
Hannah Herzsprung Julia
Vijessna Ferkic Sophie
Lena Olin Rose Mather/Ilana Mather
Jeanette Hain Brigitte
Florian Bartholomai Thomas Berg
Friederike Becht Angela Berg
Alissa Wilms Emily Berg
Frieder Venus Doctor
Marie Anne Fliegel Hanna's neighbor
Moritz Grove Holger
Jürgen Tarrach Gerhard Bade
Nico Muhly Conductor

Technical Credits
Stephen Daldry Director
Simone Baer Casting
Brigitte Broch Production Designer
Roger Deakins Cinematographer
Christoph Fisser Co-producer
Anja Fromm Art Director
Donna Gigliotti Producer
David Hare Screenwriter
Stefan Hauck Art Director
Jina Jay Casting
Donna Maloney Costumes/Costume Designer
Chris Menges Cinematographer
Anthony Minghella Producer
Henning Molfenter Co-producer
Redmond Morris Producer
Nico Muhly Score Composer,Musical Arrangement
Sydney Pollack Producer
Erwin Prib Art Director
Ann Roth Costumes/Costume Designer
Anu Schwartz Art Director
Claire Simpson Editor
Bob Weinstein Executive Producer
Harvey Weinstein Executive Producer
Carl L. Woebcken Co-producer
Yesim Zolan Art Director

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Reader
1. Michael [2:57]
2. A Chance Meeting [3:07]
3. Flowers for Hanna [3:52]
4. First Encounter [7:16]
5. Lessons in Love [5:39]
6. A Misunderstanding [4:26]
7. The Odyssey [3:11]
8. A Cycling Holiday [5:01]
9. Sophie and Hanna [11:26]
10. Julia [1:38]
11. Law School [1:55]
12. The Trial [5:15]
13. The Truth About the Guards [8:04]
14. Everyone Knew [2:11]
15. Stutthof Concentration Camp [2:58]
16. No Answers [3:43]
17. A Piece of Information [6:19]
18. The Verdict [4:44]
19. Return to Reading [4:54]
20. The Lady With the Little Dog [4:58]
21. Reunited [7:33]
22. Hanna's Release [3:53]
23. Forgiveness [10:19]
24. End Credits [8:17]
1. Michael Returns to the Lake [2:09]
1. Michael Goes to Prison to Collect Hanna [5:37]
1. Michael Has Hanna Over For Dinner [4:55]
1. Lessons in Love [2:52]
1. Michael Meets Heidelberg Law School Students [1:15]
1. German Guilt [4:04]
1. Rose Mather's Testimony (Extended) [3:14]
1. Lift to Stutthof Concentration Camp [4:31]
9. Michael Seeks His Mother's Advice [4:37]
10. Michael Reads to Hanna (Extended) [4:20]
11. Hanna Leans to Read and Write (Extended) [4:29]

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