Watch Before Viewing The Reader December 31, 2008 Before checkng out Kate Winslett’s “The Reader” this weekend, Movies.ie recommends the following titles… Boasting the typical pedigree of a Holocaust film–acclaimed actors, a classic literary source and an Oscar-baiting end-of-the-year release date-“The Reader” could have been just be another Holocaust pic. Thankfully, director Stephen Daldry (The Hours) offers us something new here, focusing not on the victim but on the perpetrator. Kate Winslet takes on the hefty supporting role of Hanna Schmitz, a woman who has an affair with Michael Berg -a 15-year-old boy in 1950s Germany. They spend their brief romance alternately making love and focusing on literature, with Michael reading everything from Chekov to Homer to his lover. Soon, Hanna abruptly disappears, and Michael returns to his normal life. Almost a decade later, Michael is studying law, when he sees Hanna again; she is on trial for her crimes as an S.S. guard during the war. Michael is torn between a desire for justice and his knowledge of a secret that may save Hanna… SCHINDLER’S LIST Nominated for 12 Academy Awards and winning seven, including Best Picture and a long-coveted Best Director for Spielberg, and “Schlinder’s List” quickly gained praise as one of the finest American movies about the Holocaust. Based on a true story, the film follows the life of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman in Poland who sees an opportunity to make money from the Nazis’ rise to power. He starts a company to make cookware and utensils, using flattery and bribes to win military contracts, and brings in accountant and financier Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) to help run the factory. By staffing his plant with Jews who’ve been herded into Krakow’s ghetto by Nazi troops, Schindler has a dependable unpaid labor force. For Stern, a job in a war-related plant could mean survival for himself and the other Jews working for Schindler. However, in 1942, all of Krakow’s Jews are assigned to the Plaszow Forced Labor Camp, overseen by Commandant Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), an embittered alcoholic who occasionally shoots prisoners from his balcony. Schindler arranges to continue using Polish Jews in his plant, but, as he sees what is happening to his employees, he begins to develop a conscience. He realizes that his factory (now refitted to manufacture ammunition) is the only thing preventing his staff from being shipped to the death camps. Soon Schindler demands more workers and starts bribing Nazi leaders to keep Jews on his employee lists and out of the camps. By the time Germany falls to the allies, Schindler has lost his entire fortune — and saved 1,100 people from likely death. THE PIANTIST Filmmaker Roman Polanski, who as a boy growing up in Poland watched while the Nazis devastated his country during World War II, directed this downbeat drama based on the true story of a privileged musician who spent five years struggling against the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) is a gifted classical pianist born to a wealthy Jewish family in Poland. The Szpilmans have a large and comfortable flat in Warsaw which Wladyslaw shares with his mother and father (Maureen Lipman and Frank Finlay), his sisters Halina and Regina (Jessica Kate Meyer and Julia Rayner), and his brother, Henryk (Ed Stoppard). While Wladyslaw and his family are aware of the looming presence of German forces and Hitler’s designs on Poland, they’re convinced that the Nazis are a menace which will pass, and that England and France will step forward to aid Poland in the event of a real crisis. Wladyslaw’s naïveté is shattered when a German bomb rips through a radio studio while he performs a recital for broadcast. During the early stages of the Nazi occupation, as a respected artist, he still imagines himself above the danger, using his pull to obtain employment papers for his father and landing a supposedly safe job playing piano in a restaurant. But as the German grip tightens upon Poland, Wladyslaw and his family are selected for deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. Refusing to face a certain death, Wladyslaw goes into hiding in a comfortable apartment provided by a friend. However, when his benefactor goes missing, Wladyslaw is left to fend for himself and he spends the next several years dashing from one abandoned home to another, desperate to avoid capture by German occupation troops SHOAH The brilliant French documentary Shoah courageously assume that their audience is willing to sit through 570 minutes’ worth of interviews and little else. As unpromising as this sounds, rest assured that you will sit and listen. Relentless “inquisitor” Claude Lanzmann probes the memories of several survivors of the Holocaust–as well as several ex-Nazis who helped perpetrate the horrors. Gradually, one becomes aware that what happened in Germany and occupied Europe in the years 1933 through 1945 was not as “unthinkable” as it may seem to modern viewers; the recollections of those directly involved demonstrate all too well that it can happen anywhere at any time. One review of Shoah has carped that “it really could have been a bit shorter.” No, it couldn’t… EXTRAS Ok – it’s not a movie – but it’s movie within a TV show. Who can forget Kate Winslett’s first Holocaust pic in the Ricky Gervais’ hilarious Extras? One minute she’s praying to God, the next talking dirty with Maggie and Andy… Plus, the Oscar speech? It’s all too true Kate – we’ll see you at the awards! “The Reader is in Irish cinemas from Friday, January 2nd.