Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Reader

I watched the movie yesterday. What a perfect story. What I liked perhaps was that there was no sugary forgiveness. The movie just portrayed humanity.

Since words like "human" and "humanitarian" have such positive connotations, we forget that humanity is also basically flawed. That sometimes we agree because it's easier than disagreeing. That sometimes we don't see the humanity of others because the instinct for self-preservation kicks in. This, too, is totally human.

Kate Winslet packed it all in her performance. The mature and sure older woman in the relationship, now vulnerable, now harsh. The uncomprehending defendant, following her orders. The defeated old prisoner, who, in a spurt of excitement, blue eyes flashing through the wrinkles, learns something that has evaded her all her life.

David Kross who emoted beautifully - the besotted underage lover, the confused yet involved spectator at the trial, torn by the unique dilemma of protecting a woman he once loved, but unsure whether to protect her from shame or imprisonment. And then, as a successful but haunted adult, Ralph Fiennes takes over seamlessly, unable to forgive her crime yet unable to forget his love. And so he reaches out only halfway, hesitantly, helping the stranger he had once loved in the only way he can. So simple, and so beautiful.

Every actor was so right. The knowing Professor of Law, who says, "It doesn't matter what you think! It only matters what you do!" The unspoken words hang in the air - "...and what you don't do." The Auschwitz survivor, cool, composed and very rich - yet forcefully convincing that "Nothing comes out of the camps. Nothing." As if the nothing itself were cancerous, destroying a bit of humanity.

The movie takes no sides. It didn't really make me cry, because it was a piece of life: never perfect. Instead it left me aching a little for the sort of humans we all are, sometimes by choice and sometimes for lack of it.