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Victoria Clifton Humanities 1301.M01 30 Mar. 2010 Secluded by Secrecy All significant truths are private truths, T. S. Eliot once expressed. For characters and lovers Michael Berg and Hanna Schmitz in the film The Reader, such an assertion is befitting, the private exploits of both being a significant delineation for each persona. The film follows the ill-fated lives of the two lovers forced into secrecy by an inappropriate sensual endeavor during post-World War II Germany. Hanna, though, has more than one private truth to hide and does not reveal herself at all to Michael. Her trait of nondisclosure ultimately passes to him. The pair is bound to secrecy, the need for isolation becomes a fundamental part of each character, and they are constantly making decisions based on necessity of concealment. The result of such decisionmaking takes a very affecting toll on their lives, including the people in them. The theme of secrecy and concealment that runs through the veins of the film and its characters molds the isolated lives of Hanna and Michael into a perverse tragedy. Hanna is an almost indefinable woman. Almost no information about her background is given, except the glaring facts of her working resume and a single secret she never once willingly acknowledges. Having no family connections or friends, it seems almost as if she was never born but had simply appeared one day as a full grown woman shrouded in mist; her appearing suddenly would certainly account for the fact of her inability to read or write. Without particulars as to her history, upbringing and experiences, there is no possible way to elucidate the exact meanings of her actions, and no amount of dissection could bring further illumination. Therefore viewers are left
Her proud nature reveals itself many times during the film.Clifton 2 with only a few distinct certainties pertaining to her character: she is controlling. excepting the mother and daughter. and her deliberate resolve to act alone and forsake the love for another human being is remarkable. Upon the release of book detailing the experience of their persecution as Jews. With such restrictions. Every prisoner perished. Hanna s fear of appearing weak ultimately becomes . When called to give a writing sample to match the report. including a military past that involves her in cruel acts as an SS guard during World War II. her curt disclosure of her love for him. The probable cause for such strict repression is an overwhelming feeling of shame and fear of any other human discovering her deficiencies. and singularly compelled to hide the fact that she is illiterate. Usually such marked fear of appearing in any way debased originates from a strong reservoir of pride. her great indignation. She does not even reveal her encumbrance to Michael. or her commanding attitude during the whole of their relationship. a mother and daughter cite Hanna as one of six guards that had left the two and three hundred other Jews locked in an attacked and burning church. The tendency to act alone does not leave her. thus invoking a strong sense of secretive isolation that runs throughout the film. Hanna always acts alone when she makes pivotal decisions: abandoning Michael and finally teaching herself how to read and write. meticulous in habit. she sets herself to a degree of confinement within such a limited lifestyle. rather than have them escape. Hanna is bewildered but refuses. even during the pressuring climax of the trial. Hanna is soon called to court to face jurisdiction and is made a scapegoat by the other guards who claim she wrote the report that discloses their decision to let their prisoners suffer death. Hanna is a mysteriously solitary woman. whether it s her anger over Michael riding in a separate tram. still entirely unwilling to reveal her illiteracy.
puzzling both his professor and classmates throughout the trial. but he abandons any intentions concerning her because of his love for Hanna.he does not even discover her name until his third visit after they had been sexually intimate. Throughout Hanna s trial. The occurrence renders everyone present .Clifton 3 her hubris. reveals the family s manifest habit of internal brooding and discernable lack of warm divulgence. The oppression of silence at their dinner table. excepting Mr. An outspoken classmate soon points the painful realities out. Elusiveness is not only apparent with Hanna. she spends the rest of her lifetime in prison. Sophie. decidedly alone. Michael. he spends three months in isolation. calling Michael out on his tendency to stare at Hanna. and their attempts to bring justice at such a point in time is unmistakable hypocrisy. Berg s strong remonstrations. After her departure. During the course of their relationship Hanna s character remains arcane. seems to discern clandestine thoughts within him. Oh. It is being run by a generation that had turned a blind eye to the monstrous acts. though social. a schoolgirl interested in Michael. Michael becomes very much like Hanna: reclusive and emotionally inaccessible. and he alone reacts in that. Michael is emotionally overwhelmed. Upon the firm punishment of Hanna by jurisdiction. His interest at first appears mutual. but also within the family structure of Michael s home life. and at the abrupt end of the relationship his life continues in a very similar mode. Before the relationship between Michael and Hanna swiftly develops. consistently withdraws from his friends who are used to it and claim. the taint of secrecy is very lucid. and with a sense of atonement and insistent desire to veil her want of literacy. and his disgust for the trial and professor for their previous aid and indifference for anti-Semitic acts during World War II. he always leaves early! (The Reader).
he resolves himself to abstain from visitation of his hometown. Michael carries on along this track of rigorous privacy. and even until her release in prison he remains secretly devoted to . Does any woman ever stay long enough to find out what the hell goes on in your head? Michael does not even attend his father s funeral. alone. the following morning. which offers a bounteous amount of unkind opportunities to stimulate dark memories. The images of Hanna and Michael getting ready for the last day of trial. continues to paint the melancholy portrait of seclusion. and cannot bear to bring himself close to women.Clifton 4 very uncomfortable. and for Michael this is true. secretly believing it is her own fault. doubtless because he reminded of his strong desire for Hanna. thereby decreasing the length of her sentence? It is the simple truth: Michael loves Hanna. which is Michael s turning back on his visitation with Hanna. his marriage inevitably dissolving. Even his daughter is forced into private introspective thought and wonders at his distance. in the middle of the night. further enhancing the theme of secret isolation and abandonment. One of the film s unanswered questions that looms in the viewers minds after the end of the film is why Michael does not reveal to the court Hanna s inability to read or write. One other mystery develops in the film. Michael is also submitting to Hanna s dominant will. With love. In a way. To say that Michael is affected by Hanna s abandonment would be an understatement his entire life is extraordinarily affected by her desertion. but Michael still does not reveal his secret. who will now be unattainable. as he is wont to do. and with just as adamant a nature as Hanna s. comes respect for the significant other s strongest desires. After Hanna resolves to be the trial s scapegoat. He leaves the unfortunate girl alone. Michael sleeps with another interested classmate. Michael experienced much pain. A frustrated lover who appears briefly in the opening scene claims. so strong is Hanna s effect.
After Hanna resigns from the world. Hanna acts upon mysterious forces once again. Michael does not reveal himself to anyone until the end of the film. Michael. The whole idea of character is defined by people holding specific information. claims Michael s high school teacher. having a daughter he eventually confides in. upon her suicidal demise. they are determined not to disclose. the disposition to harbor secrets defines not their characters but their whole lives. The time for Hanna s release draws near and notions of isolation are seeping from Michael. as if they formed a monument to their relationship. She does not only forsake Michael. But amidst the throes of pain at the brusque termination of their relationship. The desolate abyss that exists between Michael and Hanna for most of the film is bridged. mounts the pillars of literature. Anger arising from deep pain is oft transformed into bitterness. which. breaking the powerfully imagery of secrecy that runs in forms of seclusion and reticence throughout the film. Michael may have left Hanna high and dry during his first intentional visitation. for various reasons. Michael s love appears to run along a deep. but they are still strong within Hanna. and with a step off of its edge she departs from Michael forever. it is also difficult to face tangible reality and the offending face that that had caused so much emotional agony. but he was not destined to have the last call. . sometimes perverse.Clifton 5 her. He sends her audiotapes of himself reading books they had once shared together and reestablishes a connection between the two. For both Michael and Hanna. and Hanna feeds off of Michael s offers heartily. and his decision to leave Hanna alone during visitation is small retribution. and he cannot bear to completely desert Hanna. After so much time gone by. She stacks the books the pair shared together. being human. Michael is not left so alone on this departure. sometimes noble. immovable track. but forsakes the world. must have felt some anger.
The Weinstein Company. Dir. Perf. Ralph Fiennes. Stephen Daldry. . 2008. Kate Winslet. DVD. 2009. Mathias Habbich.Clifton 6 Works Cited The Reader. and David Kross.
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