Extra Cinema: The Book Thief (12A)

editorial image
Share this article

Starring: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Roger Allam

Director: Brian Percival

A YOUNG adult novel it may have been, but Markus Zusak’s 2006 novel The Book Thief was an international hit read by children and adults alike — perhaps why a Glasgow Film Festival premiere sold out one of Cineworld’s biggest screens on Sunday.

The eagerly-anticipated film follows young heroine Liesel (Nélisse), the daughter of German Communists sent to live with with Hans (Rush) and Rosa Hubermann (Watson) at the height of Nazi power.

Hans teaches Liesel to read, which fuels her passion for stealing (or “borrowing”) books — and comes in handy when the family risk everything to harbour a sick Jew in their basement.

As Max (Ben Schnetzer) tells Liesel, words are life — and it’s an important lesson for a young girl steeped in Hitler Youth meetings and book-burning ceremonies.

The film is well cast and shot beautifully, contrasting pure snowy scenes with the inevitable destruction of bombs dropping from above.

But fans of the book may be disappointed that more isn’t made of the narrator — death himself (voiced by Roger Allam) — who makes only a few appearances at the beginning and end.

Pervical’s take is straight and over-simplified, eschewing the more magical aspects of The Book Thief in favour of a sentimental score and pulling of the heartstrings — but pays adequate justice to a much-loved book.

Rating: 7/10