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A Movie Critique of The Book Thief

Categories: MovieThe Book Thief

The Book Thief (2005), a historical fiction, is the most popular work of Markus Zusak, and was later on adapted into a film directed by Brian Percival on 2013 of the same name. The movie focuses on the conflict between the characters and the society, social conditions that occurred, about humanity, and exposes what the people in Nazi Germany had undergone. It points out to the viewers that books are the powerful weapon of the main character Liesel knowing it was her salvation during the World War II.

The movie provides warmth, humor and is brilliant and has an emotional appeal. The movie deserved the Academy Award, Golden Globe, and BAFTA awards since the total production was extraordinary.

In the beginning of the movie, in the year 1938, a male voice was narrating representing death. The main character Liesel, a twelve year old girl, caught the narrator’s interest as she was travelling on a train with her mother and sick younger brother. On their way to his brother’s new family, her brother suddenly dies and they buried him.

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While they were in deep agony, the gravedigger’s book entitled “The Grave Digger’s Handbook” fell and Liesel took it. This was the first time she stole a book and the beginning of the story. They continued on their journey and she was put as substitute for her brother who died and was sent to her new family in Munich. There she met her foster parents named Rosa Hubermann, who was very strict and keeps on blabbing, and Hans Hubermann, a man who has humor and is very warm.

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Liesel was very quiet enough that her foster mother would tag her as a mute. She woke up hearing a loud knock on the door and in that moment she met a friend named Rudy. He accompanied her to her first day in school. During classes, Liesel was asked by her teacher to write her name on the chalkboard but there they knew she was unable to write as she can only write three X’s on the board.

As she was teased by her schoolmates for being illiterate, Liesel knew that she had the passion in reading books and Hans, her foster father guides her towards this. Hans brought her to the basement where she can write on the walls the new words she encounters every time she reads. Liesel slowly knows how to read and write. On a Nazi book burning ceremony, Liesel was upset to see the books being burned and then there she stole her second book. She was caught on act by the mayor’s wife Ilsa Hermann. She had a great relationship with Ilsa as she allows Liesel to come inside her library and read any book she wants. Later on they were found out by the mayor and there they stopped meeting. Liesel then starts to steal books from the library to read them.

Then one night, a sick Jewish man named Max, came to their family for help. His father was the one who saved Liesel’s foster father during a World War I causing him his death. Their family owes Max’s family so they helped him in any way they could. Max and Liesel were fond of each other as they both dislike Hitler, a German politician and the leader of the Nazi Party. Time passes and Max needs to move out for the safety of Hans’ family. There was bombing every night and the people would seek shelter in a tunnel. Not long, Hans had been chosen to join the army leaving the two girls in his life. He returned and was injured that he could not hear clearly. That night, when everyone was asleep, the city was bombed and killed a huge number of people including Liesel’s parents and Rudy. She survived and was adopted by Ilsa Hemann. Two years after, she had a family and met Max, and she became a great author. She became a person loved even by Death.

Markus Frank Zusak is an Australian writer best known for his most popular book “The Book Thief”. The book was written not during World War II but he obtained informations from the people around him who have witnessed the war. The aim of the movie was to portray the emotions of the German who suffered during the war. The movie was narrated by death which gives the viewers a different perspective and gives a hint that the story is all about sadness. Death as the narrator amazingly brought out each character’s thoughts as well as his own emotions too. The tone of the narrator’s voice was calm and employs humor but it clearly shows sadness within it. The words used in narrating were all in past tense hence that the events have happened and were presented through a flashback of scenes. With the incredible acting of the characters, the movie really gave an emotional appeal to the viewers. Sophie Nelisse as Liesel Meminger was really appropriate as to her deep brown eyes conveys the story of all the things she suffered. The part in the story where even during a war inside a tunnel, Liesel’s growing passion for words never wavered and told the people around her a story, greatly shows how words can be a salvation. The cinematography of the movie is fantastic as it really shows the picture of what happened during the World War II. The movie states that even in worst of times, there are still good people who are generous enough to help you.

The movie was far from the novel of Markus Zusak. The movie shows the bad character of Liesel’s foster mother calling her “stupid and dirty” and also her schoolmates calling her as “dumkopf”. The movie will left the viewers asking as to how the war was solved. Also in the movie there was no explanation as to how Max escaped from Hitler and how he survived, where was he in those two years and why he suddenly came back and met Liesel.

The movie was very interesting and emotionally appealing. It is effective but not effective enough. Even when Liesel dies, her books remained to show that words are life and it never withers. The story conveys messages about humanity, free will, and sufferings of people during a war. The movie shows that even in the worst situations, there are still people who show kindness. The story falls under Marxism and Pseudo analytic critical approach. The people were controlled under the government and those in high power due to some Jews are abducted and put in suffering. Pseudo analytic because Liesel stole books not only just because of her passion in reading, to learn and grow, but also to comfort herself and escape from the reality. The movie was great but it should have explained as to what happened to Max when he left the Hubermann’s family.

Reference List

  • Chen, Sandie. “The Book Thief – Movie Review”. Common Sense Media: Ratings, reviews, and advice. August 03, 2019.
  • Hoose, Bob. “The Book Thief: Movie Review”. Plugged in. August 03, 2019
  • Freer, Ian. “The Book Thief”. Empire. August 03, 2019


Cite this page

A Movie Critique of The Book Thief. (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved from

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