The Reader:Shame and Lies

If you are fifteen years old and you fall in love with your middle-aged neighbor who lives alone, your love affair with her affects you deeply even after you break up. But eight years later, you suddenly discover that she is an executioner, and your testimony can save her from a lifetime of imprisonment.This is the dilemma presented to us by The Reader.We already have Schindler’s list, The Pianist, and why do we still need The Reader?The Pianist is a victim’s point of view, a member of the victim’s group, and Hanna in The Reader, a German businessman who deals with the German army and is not part of the concentration camp system. Hanna in The Reader, however, is a female guard employed by the camp. In other words, she is a screw in the ugly machine of the camp. When she was ordered to select women prisoners and send them to die at Auschwitz, she did not question, let alone challenge, the validity of the order. When the church where hundreds of Jews were held caught fire, she thought more about “how to maintain order and prevent the prisoners from escaping” than about opening the door to save lives. In her mind, she was just doing her job, not committing any crime. Did she feel guilty that so many people had burned to death? Perhaps, otherwise she would not have shed uncontrollable tears in that country church. But we see that in her mind, the victims were prisoners, and it was a pity that they died, but it was even worse that they were released! The Reader questions our souls: What made her, an ordinary woman, so indifferent in the face of the massacre? What made her obey orders above respect for human life? What makes a person who can help and care for others in life, who loves literature and listens to recitations, become a useful tool in the hands of fascists to kill?


When the smoke of World War II cleared, when the fascists were pulled down from their throne by history, when the people of post-war Germany woke up and cried out that they had been duped, who would tell them why they had been deeply hypnotized en masse? What made them not trust their own eyes, let alone their own conscience, but believe in the myths concocted by a political party? Can a fanatical belief, a “do my job” that goes with the flow, be explained by the words “I was duped” or “I was too young”? How could the Germans, who had committed crimes against the Jews, face their own hearts in the long hours of the night?But The Reader does not stop here. The exploration of German nationhood under the iron whip of fascism is only part of the theme of this remarkable novel, a more profound theme, I think, of shame and lies. Towards the end of the film (the novel), a secret that Hanna has kept buried deep inside her for years is gradually revealed – she cannot read, she is illiterate! And she is obviously ashamed of it. Her motives for meeting Mike cannot be said to be completely pure, just as Mike is not looking for “love” in her in the sense we generally do. If what Mike seeks in her is sexual excitement and a fascination with mature women (even a bit of Oedipal feelings), then what she seeks in Mike, in addition to sex, is the power to harness knowledge (reading). Underneath her seemingly decisive and mature exterior lies an unconfident and shameful heart, she is ashamed to be herself, she is ashamed to admit that she is illiterate. This weakness is wrapped up in layers of appearances that are so watertight that she is even willing to let her defend it at the cost of her freedom. She created an Achilles’ heel for herself and then walked through life with this secret weakness. She thought the secret of that heel was that she could not read, but she did not know that her true weakness was that she was afraid to face her true self. What a sad person! Likewise, Mike is ashamed of an emotion that occurred between himself and Hanna, especially after learning that Hanna was part of the fascist camp. As a member of the post-World War II generation with a special ability to reflect on fascism, he could not let go of the fact that he had an affair with a member of the fascists, who also deeply affected his love life. He could have testified to the true nature of history and saved Hanna from lifelong imprisonment, but Mike made the same choice as Hanna between telling the truth and facing shame, and keeping silent for the sake of decency.Personal dignity and shame are two sides of the same coin. People who have a deep sense of shame inside tend to show special confidence and dignity on the outside. Such people also often use lies to cover up their inner shame in order to maintain their high image. The more secrets they keep inside, the greater the shame they need, and the stronger the desire to have power (to gain security). This is said to have been the case with Hitler. The Reader is asking the question of each and every one of us. Do we dare to face our true selves? Do we dare to admit that I am illiterate? Do we dare to lift up our trouser leg to show the heel that has not been burned? Where does the sense of shame come from inside? Who defines what shame is and who needs shame? What kind of evil can a nation carrying a deep sense of shame do to human history? What kind of nation can produce a people of sound physical and personal character?The Reader’s rewriting of the image of the persecutor is also unique. In both Schindler’s list and The Pianist, the persecutors are soldiers in Nazi uniforms, with Jewish blood on their hands, murderous demons, and the Pianist features a music-loving Nazi officer, a rare enemy who can relate to the pianist as a positive figure in the world of music, but The Reader goes further. Reader goes even further, presenting a portrait of the persecutor that none of the aforementioned films ever present: a seemingly maternal, voluptuous, beautiful, uneducated woman. Think about it: without the participation and support of millions of ordinary people like Hanna, how could the fascists have come to power? How could the fascists come to power without the participation of millions of ordinary people like Hanna? How could the massacre be carried out in front of everyone’s eyes? Not all devils have two horns on their heads, not all people can see the devil in their hearts, and not all devils are devils from the beginning. The other day I watched Marcel Ophuls’ The Sorrow and the Pity, which used a lot of footage of the Vichy government in France during World War II, and it was a big shock to me. France faced Hitler’s hoof and lost without a fight, is a lot of post-war French people do not want to mention the shame. When the German army has not yet come, the French bourgeoisie public opinion tendency has been lopsided, high hanging up the war-free card, playing a small white flag, the main war faction was arrested in the prison, by escaping from prison to escape. And the persecution and trampling of the Jews by the French in World War II was not generally cruel. I saw Hitler’s train passing through the station in France, French women in uniform, scrambling to shake hands and kiss Hitler, running after the train, lest they fall behind. But Hitler commented that the French women were too uncouth, a bunch of rotten women. The children born with them will mess up our noble lineage. No intermarriage with the French! We often say that the French have a revolutionary tradition, the French have a revolutionary spirit, who would have thought that the French are no less slavish than the Chinese who are often criticized?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of winslet, but about two years ago, when I was standing in the corner of a bookstore reading The Reader in one sitting, the Hanna that came to my mind was almost exactly what Winslet looked like — physically. Winslet’s look – a plump body, taller, good-looking, with a bit of almost masculine determination between her eyebrows, blonde and thick curly hair combed back high and smooth, sharp and clean action. Winslet’s dual temperament of masculinity and femininity is a perfect fit for such a role.It’s hard to like a movie based on a good novel, because the movie has a time limit and must present the best parts of the novel in one or two hours, while removing the unimportant loose ends in the director’s eyes. The novel is different, it can play as much as it likes, and the length is unlimited, so it can provide the reader with a lot of imagination and the feeling of the smallest details. But The Reader is a very good adaptation of the film, almost following the original work, and the essence of the original work is fully displayed. The performances of the main actors are noteworthy, Winslet is particularly good, except for the makeup of the elderly is not very realistic. In addition, her eyes are too sharp and too bright, full of wrinkles can not hide her glow, which is a failure. Perhaps the director also see this hard, to her to wear some kind of contact lenses, eyes become cloudy, is to make up for this defect. The end of the film is a bit dragged out, surprisingly twice I thought the movie was over, but after the fade out and re-staged a new clip, so people are quite a bit impatient, can’t wait to get a pair of scissors to click off the cumbersome part. But all in all, this is a great movie that can’t be missed. I hope the Golden Globes judges will be a good judge and give a thousand horses the credit they deserve.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Funky Blog by Crimson Themes.