2009-02-20 / Entertainment/Lifestyles

MovieScope

'The Reader" - Sympathy For The Devil

It's strange that lately Hollywood feature films are promoting sympathy for Nazis. We have Tom Cruise as the anti-Hitler, pro-German Nazi in "Valkyre." Then, there is Kate Winslet playing a former SS guard deflowering a 15-year-old boy in "The Reader."

The Cruise character is heroic in his failed attempt to assassinate the Fuehrer, yet he maintains his nationalistic fervor for the Fatherland. Playing Hanna Schmitz, Winslet is sympathetic and sensuous, as she nurses ailing student Michael Berg (David Kross) back to health, while providing hands-on instruction about the birds and the bees. Years later in law school, Michael is witness to a war crimes trial, where Hanna is accused of atrocities. Part of her guilt is contingent on a handwritten report, which only Michael knows she could never have composed. During their trysts, he would read books to her: She is illiterate, but too proud to admit it. Michael keeps his secret from the court, sending her to prison for most of the rest of her life and leaving him with a broken spirit for the rest of his.

Portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in his adult years, Michael sends his taped readings of books to Hanna in jail, enabling her to move down the road to literacy, though not to salvation.

The question is, why should we care about Winslet's monster or Cruise's too-little-too-late assassin?

We shouldn't. But we do because Cruise makes razzle-dazzle entertainments and Winslet is a mesmerizing actress.

"Hooray for Hollywood" doesn't erase the memory of the Holocaust.

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