It’s difficult to say whether telling the story of the Holocaust from a child’s perspective dampens the horror of it, or makes it all the more worse, but character studies of children who lived at the time have been done many times both in film and the page. Such examples include Life is Beautiful, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and the multiple adaptations of The Diary of Anne Frank, and now an adaptation of Marcus Zusak’s award-winning novel The Book Thief is coming to the big screen, from Downton Abbey director Brian Percival.
The Book Thief centers around a young girl called Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) who is sent to live with new adoptive parents (played by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) in Germany, just before the start of the Second World War and the Holocaust. Liesel steals her first book before she even knows how to read, but is taught by her adoptive father and eventually goes on to rescue another volume from a book burning. Her parents also take in a Jewish man called Max (Ben Schnetzer) who is forced to hide in their basement lest he be caught and sent to a concentration camp.
A trailer for The Book Thief has now been released, which puts most of the emphasis upon the heartwarming nature of the story and Liesel’s coming-of-age, though some of the nastier aspects of the setting creep in around the ages. Though the film is in English, the mix of predominantly British and American actors all seem to have adopted German accents of varying intensity.
Overall, The Book Thief looks like a competent adaptation that will no doubt be enjoyed by fans of the source material, those who are particularly interested in the historical background of the story, or even moviegoers who just enjoy a good tearjerker. The trailer might be considered slightly too saccharine, but not all films about the Holocaust can be doom and gloom, and there’s something admirable about trying to create a tale of hope from such a dark time in history.
The Book Thief is out in theaters on November 15th, 2013.