US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Entertainment news: The Reader isn’t Oscar worthy

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This Sunday marks the Oscars, and looking down the nominee list, I have seen just one of the films listed, as usual (The Visitor—very good). 

I have my list of movies to rent, but after reading this article in Slate, best picture nominee The Reader is not on that list. The article calls it “the worst Holocaust movie ever made,” and says it promotes revisionism rather than denial of the Holocaust. The revision basically says that Germans didn’t know any better.

In the story (from what I read here), Kate Winslet’s character is an illiterate Auschwitz guard who seduces a teenage boy to teach her to read after the war and before she’s put on trial for war crimes, including guarding a burning church to make sure the 300 people inside it wouldn’t escape (that scene was cut from the movie).

“You had to be deaf, dumb, and blind, not merely illiterate, to miss what Kate Winslet's character seems to have missed (while serving as a guard at Auschwitz!). You’d have to be exceedingly stupid. As dumb as the Oscar voters who nominated The Reader because it was a ‘Holocaust film,’” writes Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler.

“Some worshipful accounts of the novel…actually seem to affirm that illiteracy is something more to be ashamed of than participating in mass murder,” he also writes.

Another strike against it is that the first 30 minutes, according to this review, is more seduction that reading. “The nudity…gives new meaning to the word gratuitous,” Rosenbaum writes, adding that a friend called it (to the director’s face) manipulative—creating sympathy for the war criminal.

I highly recommend reading the article for an interesting perspective on how this film and Hollywood in general treats the Holocaust. Luckily other revisionist Holocaust films—The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Valkyrie, also explained in this article—were not nominated.

This review is pretty damning and has convinced me to not waste my precious viewing time on this film. But I’ve heard good things about the book and obviously many people liked the film. Have you seen it? What did you think?