The film got off to a very positive start with a large amount of German being spoken (always a winner for me!) although I was a little perplexed as to why the narrator, Death himself, was the only character with a British accent in the film. As a whole, I was overwhelmingly impressed by the German accents of all the actors. I have seen several films either with no effort at all put in to matching the accents to the location or where, bizarrely, some of the actors put on an accent and others don't. So that was an immediate bonus for me. The number of German words casually thrown about throughout the film added to the feeling of having been transported to Germany. The overall performance of the actors was absolutely fantastic. Geoffrey Rush was (unsurprisingly) staggeringly good and the kids, and indeed all the actors, gave faultless performances. I was absolutely transported to Nazi Germany, and there was no weak link anywhere to let the side down.
The plot kept me gripped from start to finish. One thing I found very interesting was the way in which the film was centred around Liesel's goodness, contrasting the humanity of many of the characters with the brutality of the SS Officers and other Party members. It was quite refreshing to witness scenes of humanity rather than watching another film depicting only scenes of SS cruelty towards Jews and other victims. That's not to say that there were no harrowing scenes - the burning of the books was disturbing to say the least, as all the Germans crowded around the fire cheering at anti-Jewish and anti-communist statements, and sang the national anthem in unison whilst saluting Hitler. However, this scene was also poignant as we witnessed Liesel's inner struggle between joining in with those around her and realising that these people around her were celebrating the hatred and persecution of her own mother, who had been a communist and who we know did not survive the regime. Sophie Nélisse's acting is so superb that the viewer feels each one of her emotions. I watched Liesel begin to understand the real purpose of the Nazis, as she and her best friend Rudy (another excellent performance by Nico Liersch) lost their excitement at being in the Hitler Youth and gradually became more disillusioned, finally screaming 'I hate Hitler' together as they contemplated how many people they have lost from their lives and considered the prospect of being separated once Rudy started his elite training.
It was touching to watch Liesel's love of books grow, and seeing her go to every length to get hold of new books. I have to say I was a bit confused as to why she couldn't read in the beginning, but maybe I need to read the book to get more background on that. My only other 'problem' was in one of the final scenes, when the street was bombed and all the families were pulled out of the rubble - the houses were completely destroyed and yet Liesel's parents did not seem to have any external injuries - all the bodies were intact and peaceful in death. This of course helped reduce the trauma of seeing so many beloved characters die, but was perhaps just a little unrealistic. However, if that's my biggest complaint, that's not bad going at all.
Overall, The Book Thief is a heart-warming story of love, friendship, strength and togetherness. The bonds formed between Liesel and her new parents, Liesel and Max, and Liesel and Rudy, are full of love. The viewer really gets to know the characters and absolutely feels for Liesel when she loses yet more members of her small family. It is good to see a war story with an ultimately positive theme - despite the death and sadness, of which naturally there is plenty, it is wonderful to see love and friendship overpower Nazism and admiration of the Führer. I cannot recommend the film enough, and I have already got my hands on a copy of the book. I cannot wait to read it.