Archive for June, 2009

The Reader – A movie and book review


Here’s another movie that I have seen before reading the book. After watching the Academy Awards earlier this year, I started making a list of must-see movies this summer and The Reader made my list. It received several nominations and won quite a few awards. And the plot of a teen-aged boy having an affair with an older woman and then she mysteriously disappears intrigued me.

I rented the movie a few weeks ago. The story begins in the late 1950s in Berlin and 15-year old Michael Berg (David Kross) starts an affair with Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet), a woman in her mid-30s. Whenever Michael goes to her apartment, she will ask him to read to her his literary books before they make love. And yes, you must have guessed by now, she’s nude in the movie. Sometimes I wonder if it’s really necessary to have these nude scenes. I’m pretty sure it’s not. A good director and good actors (and Kate is one, she won awards for her portrayal of Hanna in the movie, didn’t she?) can tell a romantic story by forgoing the nude scenes. It has been done. And I’ve read somewhere that the movie has been criticized for including child pornography. Well, David Kross was still a teenager when he did the movie, but I also read somewhere that they waited for him to turn 18 before shooting the nude scenes. But what really bothers me in the movie is how the character of Hanna refused to reveal her secret and would rather serve a lifetime sentence in prison. But of course, I knew better that there is more to the story than what was portrayed in the movie.


And that’s why I tried to get a copy of the book. I found one at another second-hand bookstore, The Book Fair, on Portage Avenue. And yes, I like the book better than the movie.

The book is an easy read even though the topic is quite heavy and emotional. This is another book that is beautifully written even in its simplicity. It was originally written in German by Bernhard Schlink and translated by Carol Brown Janeway. I think the translator did a very good job. So I wonder what made the book good, the author or the translator? Or maybe both. Anyway, it’s a very good novel.

After reading the first part of the book, I take back what I said earlier about the nude scenes. Yes, Michael talks about his physical relationship with Hanna, but I still think the nude scenes could have been limited and toned down a bit in the movie. Also, in the book, Michael explains to the reader how he is feeling at certain parts of the story. Yes, in the movie, I felt young Michael’s excitement as he starts his relationship with Hanna and later falls in love with her. And his pain when Hanna suddenly leaves and years later when he sees her again at the trial and he realizes that she committed a war crime. But I think the movie fails to let the audience understand (especially those who haven’t read the book) that Michael is in pain not just because Hanna, the woman he loved, committed a terrible crime, but that he’s also in pain because he feels guilty for falling in love with a woman who committed such crime even though she had committed the crime after their relationship was over.

Even in the later part of the movie, I didn’t feel the conflicts that Michael has within himself. I only understood them after reading the book. And Ralph Fiennes, who played the older Michael, is such a fine actor.

Could it be the director’s fault? Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just got distracted by the nude scenes and that nagging question after watching Hanna get sentenced for life. Is her secret really that shameful at that time that she would rather go to prison for life than reveal her secret? And unfortunately, the book didn’t answer that question either. But the title of the book is The Reader and it’s not really about Hanna, right?

My most favourite part of the book is when Michael talked to the prison warden in person. It almost brought me to tears when she explained to him how proud and happy Hanna was when she overcame ‘her secret’ and how Michael has helped her in doing that. Somehow that part of the movie didn’t have the same impact on me. But I’m going to stop here now before I reveal the secret and spill any more spoilers. 🙂


June 29, 2009 at 5:15 pm 9 comments

Two for the Road

This is my oldest son, Reggie, on the flute and his friend, Andrew, on the guitar, playing Henry Mancini’s Two for the Road.

This song is from the 1967 movie of the same title. It stars Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney.

Why do I think that there’s a Tagalog version of this song? Can anybody tell me if I’m right and the title of the Tagalog song?

Two for the Road
by Henry Mancini

If you’re feeling fancy free,
come wander through the world with me,
and any place we chance to be,
will be a rendezvous.

Two for the road,
we’ll travel through the years,
collecting precious memories,
selecting souvenirs
and living life the way we please.

In the summertime the sun will shine,
in winter we will drink summer wine,
and any day that you are mine,
will be a lovely day.

As long as love still wears a smile,
I know that we’ll be two for the road,
and that’s a long long while.

June 22, 2009 at 8:44 pm 7 comments

The Bluest Eye and Hounddog

the bluest eye

I just finished reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I’ve heard Oprah mention it on her show a few years ago. When I saw it at this second hand bookstore, the Red River Bookstore, on Arthur Street, when I went there last month, I bought a copy. If you like reading, you should go visit this bookstore located at the Exchange District. It’s huge and there’s a large selection of books. They also have quite a selection of movies – DVDs and tapes. Well, anyway, Toni Morrison is the winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. I don’t know how these authors do it. Just like Khaled Hosseini and Patrick Lane, she wrote about a very sad story and made her prose read like poetry.

The Bluest Eye is about 11-year old black girl Pecola, who prays for the bluest eye because she thinks that would make her beautiful. Isn’t that sad? In her Afterword in the book, Ms. Morrison writes about this girl in her elementary school and how she wanted blue eyes. This must be the inspiration of the book. Ms. Morrison also wonders at the reason behind the ‘racial self-loathing.’ Who made her feel that it was better to be a freak than what she was? Having brown skin, I remember when I was growing up how I thought that children with lighter skin looked prettier than the ones with darker skin. And I remember how my mother used to tease my sister that if she wanted to have a high-bridged nose like the white people do, she should pinch her nose with a clothespin when she sleeps at night. Ouch! 🙂 But you know what, I never wished for blue eyes or a high-bridged nose. I was quite satisfied with my brown eyes and ilong na pango. 🙂

What amazes me in The Bluest Eye is how Ms. Morrison was able to make the reader, well at least me, read about the rape of a child and feel like it’s not a hideous act at that moment but a tragedy and how she managed to develop the story of the perpetrator and make us understand, but not condone, the brutal act that he did.


Speaking of child rape, I saw this movie Hounddog, which stars Dakota Fanning. I’ve heard about this movie where she had to do a rape scene, and it was controversial at that time. I think she was only 12 when she made the movie. I also wondered why her parents let her do the movie. But, hey, I don’t want to judge her parents. And it actually bothered me at first when I found out that she and her sister Elle were offered the roles of the sisters in the upcoming movie, My Sister’s Keeper. I’ve already mentioned this in my book review. Dakota declined the role when she learned that she would have to be bald. I just thought that she didn’t have a problem accepting a movie where she would be raped, but she didn’t want to do one where she would be bald. But hey, again, she must have her own reasons, good, valid reasons.

Well, anyway, there’s nothing vulgar in the way Hounddog was filmed. The rape scene wasn’t graphic. The actual act wasn’t shown but was just implied. There were close-ups on Dakota to show the expressions on her face. There were no nude scenes. I didn’t even find Dakota ‘s gyrating hips as she sang Hounddog sexy. But, I mean, I’m a mother who has kids about her age. Maybe a teen-aged boy would find it sexy. 🙂

Did you know that Hounddog was a blues song before Elvis Presley made it popular? In the movie, Lewellen, Dakota’s character, has a friend who helped her cope with her tragedy by teaching her how to sing the blues. If only Pecola also had somebody who would helped her cope, maybe she would have had a better fate than what she had in the story.

And kudos to Dakota, she did a fine job in the movie. I think she’s grown up to be a talented actress. She’s been acting since she was what, four years old? And did you know that she’s playing the bad vampire Jane in the upcoming sequel to Twilight, New Moon? This is her first role as a villain. I guess she must have become a versatile actress, too, huh? Can’t wait to see New Moon. But of course, looking forward first to seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince this summer. 🙂

June 4, 2009 at 10:43 pm 4 comments