It’s been a long time since I got inspired to have thoughts worth writing down. But today I watched an Oscar nominated movie “The Reader”, thanks to nothing being available to watch on television. When I started watching it, I must admit I could not understand where was the story leading to. Was it some kind of Freudian movie? (Generally I don’t like to read the plots of movies beforehand – it takes away the anticipations. So all I knew about this movie was that it was about a woman who had once worked with the Nazis and was indicted later for that.).
So I persisted and then slowly the story started unfolding. It portrayed the complexity of human mind so well that I was convinced that it deserved an Oscar (I haven’t seen the other movies which were nominated in that category and they might have been as well too but this movie did justice to the award).
I have liked Kate Winslet as an actor but probably her potential has been best utilized in this movie.
Now there is this scene wherein Hannah Schmidt (Kate Winslet) is on trial and she is quite honest about what she did as a guard of a concentration camp. But the others who worked with her deny all charges. (I guess mostly everyone would want to save himself/herself from punishment no matter whether the crime was big or small.) So they put the entire blame on her. And now that part comes which shows how many varied emotions can we humans have.
When the jury wants to see a sample of her handwriting to ascertain whether she wrote some report or not, she accepts the blame even though she was being framed.
Why? Not because she was repentant, but just because she was ashamed of being an illiterate! She didn’t want to let anyone know that she could not read or write! She didn’t protest, knowing full well that the punishment would be severe if the charges on her were proven. But what does she do? She simply accepts that! (Then the jigsaw puzzle falls into place – on being given a menu once on a cycling trip with Michael, she says to him “I’ll have what you have” – at this juncture you realize that she said that because she couldn’t read!)
There was another question raised in the movie (and is often asked) – when everyone knew what was happening in these concentration camps, why did no one say anything? Why did people act as if all that was not happening – just because it was happening with their neighbors and not them? I am sure (and as I have also read) that there definitely were people who tried to help but that was done clandestinely. There was nothing like a joint protest – like in India we had Gandhi ji leading the freedom movement – of course he could not have done things alone if there were not the masses behind him. May be that is another feature of human beings – most of the people need someone to give his/her voice to THEIR feelings and then they are ready to follow.
But I will come back on track and not go into the “whys” and “hows” of things. My musings were only about the human thought process, some aspects of which were shown in this movie.
Another part that touched me was how Hannah left her savings to the girl who survived the concentration camp – whose book had formed the basis of her being charged in the first place. When Michael brings that box with her money to this girl, then we realize that she knew that this girl had a tin box while she was in the camp, in which she kept her precious stuff – not monetarily precious – but the ones that had sentimental value for her. So Hannah puts all her money in the tin box to be given to this girl. This girl, now a woman in her middle age, keeps the tin box and asks Michael to make use of that money in a way that he thinks best – they both decide that the money would be used for the purpose of spreading literacy – because after all, Hannah was an illiterate but she loved being read to – as though trying to fill the void that she felt in not being educated herself.
So overall the movie principally is not about Nazis or the holocaust or anything like that – it is all about the trappings of the human mind which we call emotions. The confusions, the guilt, the shame, the angst, the helplessness, the fear interspersed with occasional joyous moments – eveything.
Very well written, well directed and well enacted and therfore the well deserved award.