I love movies. They are truly my favorite art form.
When a film stays with you long after, revealing multiple meanings the more you think about it, then that is a great film. Let me be clear here. I am a psychotherapist. I have no ties or investments to the film industry. Of all the great films that came out in 2008, The Reader struck me the most because it speaks to my favorite subject – change or the lack thereof.
In this film, we get to see the cost of refusing to act when it is the morally right thing to do. The film moves back and forth between the late 1950’s and the mid 90’s. The two main characters, both German encapsulate the mores of the German people. Both adhere to the tribe’s spoken and unspoken rules.
The character Kate Winslet plays, does what she is told to do as a guard in a concentration camp and the lead male character, complies silently 21 years later when he conceals information that could have saved her because it would have meant exposing himself as having fraternized with a war criminal. She also refuses to save herself because it would have meant exposing a part of herself she was ashamed of.
Both pay a huge price for concealing their shame and we as viewers see the cost when one refuses to act independently from the tribe. But something else happens. We then see their individual journey of enlightenment played out through the metaphor of books. The interesting but sad character is the woman whose mother was in the camps and refuses to forgive Kate’s character even after her death. Had this been someone who was a patient of mine, I would have directed her to Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl, a camp survivor understood that forgiveness is the only way to redeem tragic loss for one’s self.
My last thought on this film is this question: Where do you and I comply with the mores of your tribe at the cost of living a life of meaning and truth? This is my journey and the journey for anyone whose Grail is found through a LifeQuake.