I’m a massive fan of foreign films. If a small film from an unknown director or studio outside of the US or UK has reached cinemas in the UK then it’s a pretty good indicator that it’s a film has something special about it. I managed to get hold of some preview tickets for this film and felt pretty excited at the start when the subtitles started and I thought “Thankfully, they’ve got it right”.
Then Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush started talking and that’s where it all fell apart.
Why oh why would you pull in two hugely successful English actors and have them put on hammy German accents whilst speaking English, when Germany is full of excellent actors who would surely have been desperate for a big role in such a widely released film. I’m sure Christopher Waltz, Diane Kruger and Daniel Bruhl aren’t the only ones available. I have never ever understood why studios refrain from subtitles in this situation. Most people watching aren’t so stupid they can’t follow it. Heck, we English-speakers might even learn a language or two in the process. Please please please stop ruining films with this approach. If you want to see how to get it right then just watch the first ten minutes of Inglourious Basterds.
That said, the story is told well and there’s a fantastic performance from both the leads: 13-year-old Sophie Nelisse starring as book-obsessed Liesel, and her friend Rudy played by Nico Liersch (hurray a German!). I enjoyed it once I got past the annoying language distraction. It’s visually pretty if a little dull and soft. The John Williams score is beautifully emotive (as you’d expect from one of the greatest film composers of all time).
I’m sad that it didn’t quite hit the mark for me and I wonder whether I would have enjoyed it more if they had gone with a more realistic approach to the dialogue.
The Book Thief is released in UK cinemas on 26th February 2014.