Time: 124 mins.
Won Academy Awards for Best Actress (Winslet). Nominations for Best Cinematography, Directing, Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.
SYNOPSIS: Michael Berg is 15 when he begins a long, obsessive sexual affair with Hanna, an enigmatic older woman. He never learns very much about her, and when she disappears one day, he expects never to see her again. But, to his horror, he does. Hanna is a defendant in a trial related to Germany's Nazi past, and it soon becomes clear that she is guilty of an unspeakable crime. As Michael follows the trial, he struggles with an overwhelming question: What should his generation do with its knowledge of the Holocaust?
BOTTOM LINE: I'd watch Kate Winslet read the phone book and her intense and unrelenting performance in this film is truly amazing. She makes a woman who has destroyed the lives of almost everyone she touches an actual human being, which believe me is an impressive task. Like Michael Berg, we never really learn much about Hanna, until her horrible past is revealed. She is clearly a woman trying to hide something, who uses Michael to bring a small bit of pleasure to her unhappy life. That she takes advantage of his naivité and attraction to her, shows her lack of judgement or concern for what this relationship might do to such a young man. He likes having a dirty little secret and when she aks him to read to her, it bolsters his confidence, makes him feel like her equal and deepens his love for her. These scenes are starkly intimate and slowly heartbreaking as the viewer knows there can be no future for this relationship.
Hanna's sudden disappearance brings him brutally back to reality and ruins his chances of every truly opening his heart to another woman. What makes his even pain worse is her reappearance in his life as a defendent in one of the largest Nazi war crime trials to take place in postwar Germany. As a law student, he is forced to hear and judge the actions of a woman he still can't help but love. He's desperate to understand how she could do such evil things and yet not be a monster, but a regular, average woman. This is the crux of the film and something – after much reading of my own – I've often pondered myself. How could the general German populace turn away from the horrors of the Nazis and in many cases even help the regime in committing mass murder? It seems impossible to believe this cultured, intelligent country could let something so brutally tragic happen. And yet, history shows it did. (Whether you believe it was half a million or six, that's still an awful lot of purposefully dead people to account for.)