***May Contain Spoilers***
My Mom and I went to the movies on Sunday night and saw The Reader. First off, we went to the 19+ theater, which is a great experience. I love my kids and kids in general, but there are some times when I like to be in a kid-free zone to decompress. Add in wide leather seats and nice little tables between them, then mix in in-seat food service: movie bliss. I highly recommend it.
The Reader was great. Several days later I am still thinking about it. If you are looking for shock, lots of action and such, then see something else. But this is a thinker of a flick. Oh yeah, and the nudity. There's plenty. Not a show for kids, for sure. I giggle while I admit that I was mildly embarrassed to be sitting next to my mother during the sex scenes.
The one thing is that I keep remembering the one character talking about the Nazis during WWII and saying, "They want to point fingers and figure out who was to blame, but the truth is we are ALL to blame. Everyone knew what was going on. Everyone." (Rough paraphrase.) From what I know, that is the stark truth. Digest that idea and ponder it.
I am also struck by the conversations about and trials of people who worked as Nazis. It made me remember the man who lived down the street from us in Germany. We lived there from 1982-1986. It was still West Germany and my father was on Nato duty during the Cold War. We lived in a little town called Mahlberg. There was a man who lived 3 doors down from us. I remember him as a gentle and kind man. He loved to garden and grew the most beautiful roses, including black roses, which were actually a deep purple. Simply gorgeous. At Christmas and Easter they had us into the house and would give us kids chocolates and such. I have very warm memories of this man. They were simple times and the pleasures were simple too. ...And yet, I also know that he was an SS officer. There was a photo of him in his SS uniform as a young man in his hallway. He didn't hide it. It was there. But we never, ever talked about it. Certainly, it was nothing I knew at the time. I was only 12 in 1986.
As I have grown, I have thought about this dichotomy. In my head, Nazis and certainly the elite SS Officers were evil. My Grandmother on my Dad's side was in a concentration camp. How could I think otherwise? But both this one man and this movie make me understand a little more that a good portion of the people in this time were just people who were doing a job. A hard job. Often a job they must have disagreed with, but a job nonetheless. And further, it was a job in a time just after a global economic meltdown.
Hmmm. Economic meltdown. Familiar anyone. How desperate can bad times make people. How far would you go to have a stable job, a roof over your head, and food on your table? Would a whole country follow a charasmatic leader, in spite of misgivings? Especially a leader who promised a way out of economic turmoil?
So, I sit and ponder the characters in this movie, the people I have known, and a time that I cannot fully understand, all in an effort to ensure that such things never happen again.