The Reader

  • Directors: Stephen Daldry
  • Producers: Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Scott Rudin
  • Writers: David Hare
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross, Alexandra Maria Lara, Lena Olin, Bruno Ganz

The Reader begins in 1995 Berlin, where Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) is preparing breakfast for a woman who has spent the night with him. After she leaves, Michael watches a U-Bahn pass by, flashing back to a tram in 1958 Neustadt. A teenage Michael (David Kross) gets off because he is feeling sick and wanders around the streets afterwards, finally pausing in the entryway of a nearby apartment building where he vomits. Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet), the tram conductor, comes in and assists him in returning home.

Michael, diagnosed with scarlet fever, must rest at home for the next three months. After he recovers he visits Hanna. The 36 year old Hanna seduces and begins an affair with the 15 year old boy. During their liaisons, at her apartment, he reads to her literary works he is studying, such as The Odyssey, The Lady with the Little Dog, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Tintin. After a bicycling trip, Hanna learns she is being promoted to a clerical job at the tram company. She abruptly moves without leaving a trace.

After seeing the adult Michael, a lawyer, we see him (played again by David Kross) at Heidelberg University law school in 1966. As part of a special seminar taught by Professor Rohl (Bruno Ganz), a camp survivor, he observes a trial (similar to the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials) of several women who were accused of letting 300 Jewish women die in a burning church when they were SS guards on the death march following the 1944 evacuation of Auschwitz. Hanna is one of the defendants.

The film ends with Michael getting back together with his daughter, Julia, at Hanna’s grave and beginning to tell her the story.

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