Why The Book Thief book is better than the film


Now I’m no film snob – I love watching all types of films and I’m fully prepared to give book adaptations a fair chance. So far however, I can’t think of any book adaptations, except perhaps The Hunger Games, which have been much better than the books. I do have some more reading to do though, as I’ve definitely seen some films but haven’t read the books yet. Please remember that this is only my personal opinion and no offence is meant to Markus Zusak, whose book I absolutely love.

I realise fully that the main problem is that my imagination is radically different to that of the director and screenwriter, therefore it can never truly be the same image on screen. However, I was a little more disappointed than usual about The Book Thief adaptation which I saw last week.

The Book Thief book is one of my favourite YA books. I’m not sure why I picked it up several years ago but as soon as I did, despite the very strange introduction from ‘death’, I flew through it. I know I’m not the only one to do so but what disappoints me now is there will be a lot of people who have never read the book but will watch the film and think this is the true representation of the original work.

What’s strange about the film is that the performances were good but it lacked the conviction of the book. From the first appearance of ‘death’ as a rather posh sounding narrator, who doesn’t explain particularly well why he becomes obsessed with Liesel Melinger rather than anyone else, it failed the audience. I tried to keep positive but then Liesel arrived to meet her new foster parents with amazingly clean hair and not a speck of dirt on her, however her new foster mother declares ‘I’m not letting her in the house. She’s filthy!’ Urm, no, she isn’t…

That was one of my main thoughts – the film was too clean in general. For a war film, I wasn’t convinced by the lack of hunger (which was a feature in the book – all stealing was removed), plus their impeccable clothes, their clean faces and bodies, etc etc. Perhaps this was to keep the 12A rating, which I think is a shame if so. Even though the swearing was kept in, it was never explained, therefore it could easily have been a term of endearment for those who haven’t read the book or those who speak German! Clean, clean, clean.

Despite this, my main gripe was with the tension, or lack of, in the film. I have read the book at least three times and even when I was re-reading, I felt tense, despite knowing what was going to happen. In the film, I had no illusions that the authorities would find Max in the basement, or that Hans might die at war, or that Rudy and his family might get into trouble for Rudy’s behaviour. It was all too quick and the tension stripped out.

Perhaps it was because the book has a lot of content. I found I missed small moments from the book which I felt developed the plot well and added to the build up of tension and emotion. I cried at the end of the book but at the end of the film, I didn’t feel the same stab of emotion. I wish I had.

What I want to say is that I hope future generations pick up the book because it’ll be a better experience for them. Markus Zusak, whose been a great supporter of the film and deserves the attention his book has received, also deserves to have people read the original work. I have a lot of respect for his work. Without death’s chapters addressing the audience, building the tension about who lives and dies, and his thoughts about Liesel, the film is weaker in my opinion. Plus for all the reasons above, I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone who wants to experience The Book Thief, does so through the medium of the book first and foremost. In fact, this is more than a recommendation, it’s an order!

This post is for all the YA fans out there and linked to #UKYADay and #AprilExtravaganza


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