The newly released movie, The Book Thief, impresses audiences

By Paris Ghazi

Readers across the globe fell in love with the New York Times bestselling novel by Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, as it gained popularity since being published in 2006. Upon hearing that the book would be made into a movie premiering on November 8th, 2013, Book Thief fans all asked the same question: will it be as amazing as the book?


The Book Thief, directed by Brian Percival, follows the story of Liesel Meminger, a young, German girl who is fostered by Rosa and Hans Hubermann when her mother is forced to give her and her brother up for adoption. Aboard a train on their way to the Hubermanns, Liesel’s brother dies, leaving her lonely and depressed. The story then follows Liesel’s life with her new parents during World War II. With twists in the plot, such as the Hubermanns having to house a Jew, Max Vandenburg, in their basement, The Book Thief is an enthralling book, and the movie is not short in displaying that.

The movie kicks off with the famous words by the narrator, “You are going to die”, which came straight out of the book. The narrator, Death, might have been the audience’s biggest complaint from the movie. Roger Allam, voicing Death, sounded highly un-deathly, to say the least. But apart from Allam, many masterful performances were seen by audiences from actors such as Geoffrey Rush, portraying Liesel’s adopted father, and Emily Watson as Liesel’s adopted mother. These actors captured the essence and personality of their characters and performed their roles similar to the book. Rush, playing the role of a kind-hearted and humorous man, added a touch of reality and emotion to the movie and perfectly conveyed his role. Watson, along with Rush, was also an ideal pick for Rosa Hubermann’s brutish character.

When focusing on the child actors in the movie, viewers are safe to say that they did their job. Sophie Nelisse, playing Liesel Meminger, was shy in displaying much emotion, but again, she grasped Liesel’s quiet and conservative personality. Nico Liersch, playing a young boy, Rudy, who Liesel befriends when she moves in with her new family, excellently acted out Rudy’s lively and boisterous character. He also managed to steal the hearts of the audience with his brazen acting and adorable smile.

In order to have an appealing movie, an important component is creating a setting that is pleasing to the eye. Setting and costume producers in this movie evidently put much effort into finding items to fit the 1930/40s time frame. The crammed stores, quaint German houses, and snowy streets looked extremely authentic. With children playing in the streets, women washing clothing outside of their homes, and shopkeepers in their businesses, the scenery could not have been better fitting. The costumes, although a bit too tidy and new to show a time of struggle for families, were appropriate for the era. The greys, dark blues, reds, and maroon colors of costumes flowed with the sullen mood of the movie and fit the style.

Artistic elements aside, The Book Thief movie producers did a swell job of including the book’s main ideas and thankfully did not pull out crucial details. For one, the novel’s epilogue was in the movie which surely satisfied all of the readers. The timing of events flows almost exactly like the book and details are weaved together.

However, like every movie that is based on a book, details are left out. Max, when living in the Hubermann’s basement, had big dreams of becoming a boxer— and one day using his skills to fight Hitler; in the movie, he does not. Also, the Hubermanns had two adult, Nazi supporting, children in the book which are not once mentioned in the movie.

Despite not being perfect, this cinematic production was moving and made audiences feel the pain, struggles, and fears of people during World War II. When exiting the theater, viewers are left to answer questions to themselves that they cannot fathom the answers to: why do we have war? What did people go through during these times? Why do we turn to violence when desperate? No spoilers, but this movie is one worth seeing. So to answer the question of Book Thief fans, yes, this movie, although not perfect, lives up to Markus Zusak’s profound, historical fiction book.

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox