The Book Thief is one of the closest book-to-movie adaptations I have ever seen, and since the book is amazing, it’s not surprising that the movie is too. It’s always a nerve racking when you find out one of your favorite books is being turned into a movie. You just never know what the final result will be. Fingers crossed you might get something like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, imperfect but very good. Or you might end up with something like the film adaptation of Rick Riordan’s Sea of Monsters. Sadly, the odds are against book lovers, as most movie adaptations not only fall short of the books but also are just simply awful. Given the statistics, I was nervous about one of my most treasured books becoming a movie, but, in this case, my fears were needless.
One of the brilliant successes of the film The Book Thief is the casting. Of course, actors like Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are expected to give excellent performances, and they do. Geoffrey Rush is wonderful as poor, German accordionist Hans Hubermann, and Emily Watson perfectly portrays the stern but loving Rosa Hubermann. But perhaps the greatest feat is the acting accomplishments of the movies young cast—Sophie Nelisse as the protagonist Liesel Meminger and Nico Liersch as her best friend Rudy Steiner, both earnest and well-acted in their roles. Also marvelous is Ben Schnetzer as Max Vandenburg. The cast is an interesting balance of famous actors, such as Rush and Watson, and new talent, like Nelisse, Liersch, and Schentzer. There is no difference in the performances of the veteran actors and their young costars. Everyone’s performance is deeply moving and worthy of praise.
Another brilliant success of the movie is the set, filmed on location in Germany. The accents are accurate, as is the history. The movie depicts the infamous Kristallnacht, the Hitler Youth, book burnings, and the Nazi hatred of Jews and communists. But the movie also presents the daily fear that Germany’s own citizens lived under during Hitler’s reign, as well as the struggle of the poor to not only survive but also help those in need of their help. It’s an honest look at the often-overlooked Germans during World War II, both good and bad. This was one of the interesting aspects of the book, and the movie captures it as well.
The best success of the movie adaptation of The Book Thief is its closeness to the book. It doesn’t stray from the original story in any major way, and includes all the important plot and character developments of the story. It is one of the closest adaptations I have ever seen. It is also proof to Hollywood that you don’t need to change a book if you want it to be a successful movie. Good books are good stories, and good stories translate on the screen as well as on the page. The Book Thief is a book worth reading, and now it is also a movie worth watching.