The story of an affair between a young boy named Michael Berg and an woman named Hanna Schmitz (Kate WInslet).
Michael is 15 when he meets up with Hanna, who helps him after het gets sick in the streets. Michael feels strangely attracted to this kind lady and decides to visit her again after he has recovered from scarlet fever.
Hanna almost immediately seduces him.
Although the film doesn’t depic it as such, fair is fair: according to law this is rape. He is a minor, while she obviously is not.
It’s funny to hear American actors speak with a German accent. Aside that, the film knows how to captivate their relationship quite well. From the start it’s clear that Michael is more interested in Hanna than the other way around. Sure, they have fun (I disagree with the 12+ rate, given the explicit display, but this may be my prude nature), but he is the one that’s far more fond of her.
She likes to be read to. She lives with the characters through Michael. He brings along every book he has to read himself, or books lend by friends and so on.
Their relationship suddenly ends when Hanna disappears into thin air.
Michael goes to College to study Law, makes new friends.
Then Hanna suddenly appears in his life again. He gets to know parts of her he is deeply shocked about and doesn’t know how to process them. In a way, he wants to punish her for never telling him what she was responsible for. He does so by doing the same thing back. Not telling what he knows.
Hanna is a proud woman. Far prouder than is good for her and this will be the end of her.
Both of their lives develop along and at some point, Hanna receives a package from Michael, guiding her through several of the books he has been reading to her in the past.
When they finally meet again, it is clear that Hanna had hopes for the situation between them not to be changed, while they have. Michael has moved on with his life, while hers has been standing still.
The film should have ended after Michael visits the person Hanna has told him to visit. It does not. Even though it only goes a bit further on, it is a bit much. Unnecessary much. It doesn’t add to the film.
To me it was especially remarkable how empty both actors (Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet) can look. By that I mean the expression on their face if someone asks them a very emotional question. Like they went in hiding from themselves. Some of the dialogues are very slowly because of this. Again, this could be me.
It is a powerful film, but with slow bits in it that confuse more than should.
All in all not a bad one, but not recommendable if you don’t like Second World War dramas.