Winslet, Daldry felt weight of 'Reader's' tale


More Berlinale coverage
Film Review: The Reader

BERLIN -- Controversy? What controversy? "The Reader," Stephen Daldry's drama about a female SS guard's guilt and shame which screens here in competition, was well received Friday despite its potentially difficult subject matter for German audiences.

With a slew of current movies tackling the Nazi era, Daldry said "The Reader" is not specifically about the Holocaust. "It's dealing with the impact on the generation of Germans after the war, who were brought up under a veil of silence, and what happens when it is lifted," the director told a packed media conference early Friday afternoon. "There are lots of films made from the point of view of the victims, and quite rightly. There are very few films made with a perpetrator as the central character," Daldry added.

Kate Winslet, who has garnered an Oscar nomination for her performance as Hanna Schmitz, convicted of murdering 300 camp inmates, said the role had been a major challenge. "It was very complex playing Hanna. It felt like a huge responsibility. I wanted to honor the novel. It was a difficult balance," she said. "It would have been wrong to take on trying to humanize her, but I had to make her a human being."

"I think they did it about as well as they could have done," one local critic said after the midday press screening.

German actor David Kross, who plays Schmitz's teenage lover, and Ralph Fiennes, who plays the same character when older, were also present alongside screenwriter David Hare and Bernhard Schlink, on whose novel the film is based.

Asked how she felt about spending so much time in the film with her clothes off, Winslet said: "It's not something one particularly enjoys, but it's an important part of the film. It wasn't difficult doing the love scenes with David at all. He's 18, a professional, and absolutely brilliant in the film. It's just part of the job so we just get on with it."

Winslet was brief on her chances of finally scooping an Oscar in her sixth attempt. "I'm incredibly happy to be nominated," she said.