It seems harsh to re-judge an entire film based entirely on the closing scenes, but it’s also hard to let go of that infuriating ending, in which Liesel’s street is bombed, and virtually everyone but her dies: her family, her angel-faced neighbor and his mother and younger brothers, the bully who harassed them—and the film tries to turn it into poetry. The idea of Death gently walking among these people and cradling them in its loving arms is grotesque enough—Death’s listicle of what’s going through their heads as they die wouldn’t be out of place in Amèlie—but it’s certainly a unique narrative choice. But the way the film steps outside realism for that moment, then steps back to see Liesel weeping over her parents’ corpses, and watching Rudy die immaculately in her arms as he tries to choke out the words “I love you,” makes Life Is Beautiful look serious and responsible in its take on the Holocaust.
The Book Thief
The Reveal furthers the discussion of the film while providing a space for readers who have seen it to discuss plot-sensitive details. In other words: Spoilers ahead. Avoiding spoilers? Return to the review.