Freeview film of the day: The Book Thief

A young girl defies the Nazis with pluck and book-learning in this historically important lesson about the power (and perils) of civilisation

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The Book Thief  ★★★ 

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Premiere

6.30-9.00pm C4

The Book Thief, based on Markus Zusak’s novel, might remind you of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (showing Easter Monday), another literary property in which the Holocaust is depicted from a child’s perspective. Young protagonist Liesel (likeable Canadian newcomer Sophie Nélisse) is sent to live with foster parents (Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson), where she is ostracised at school because she can’t read. She sets about learning, and stolen books become her salvation. When she joins the Hitler Youth, she is forced to participate in a Nazi book-burning, and there’s added tension when a neighbouring Jew is secretly sheltered at her house. Director Brian Percival (decorated alumnus of Downton) brings a family-friendly “teatime” feel to the period setting, John Williams’s score is stirring, and the cast adopts game German accents. But it’s the history, including the horror of Kristallnacht, that keeps it vital.


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