Best in Show: Diem on The Book Thief and Meeting Markus Zusak
Last Sunday, Classic Cinemas and Readings Bookstore hosted a special event in Melbourne – a screening of ‘The Book Thief’, a Question & Answer session with author Markus Zusak, and a beautiful signed copy of the new, non-film-tie-in paperback edition. (Photos from the event are here!)
Prior to seeing The Book Thief, like every other obsessed teenager, I went on all the social media sites. I went through Markus Zusak’s tumblr from the latest posts to the earlier ones, I read his tweets until my eyelids begged me to stop, and I read this particular article he wrote regarding The Book Thief’s film adaptation. Markus (yes, I am on first name terms because I feel that after 4 signed books a barrier has been broken) puts my feelings about the film much more eloquently. Despite the book and film bearing the same name, they are different. Different mediums, different writers and a different experience altogether. Adaptations transform the written work to the big screen and in this process, things change. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. My verdict is that The Book Thief is one of the good adaptations.
I cried throughout the film. At one point everything was so blurry that I couldn’t see and I was howling inside. All the actors were brilliant; Sophie Nélisse as Leisel, Geoffrey Rush as Hans, Emily Watson as Rosa, Ben Schnetzer as Max, and Nico Liersch as Rudy. I have to give a special shout out to Nico Liersch, though - he was exactly how I saw Rudy. He had lemon coloured hair and these wonderful blue eyes. It wasn’t just the way he looked, but the way he loved Liesel that made me like his performance best.
There are a few choices that the makers of the film made that I am still trying to comprehend. Most are minor quibbles, but I will mention the one scene that stood out the most, and it can be seen as both good and bad. It made me cry uncontrollably and hint: it’s near the end. Another hint: it was very Baz Luhrmann Romeo & Juliet-esque.
When the film ended, there was a buzz buzz and before I knew it Markus-freaking-Zusak was in the cinema and I was breathing the same air as him. My friend, Jennifer, and I looked at each other and started flapping our arms. My seat was C8 - 3 rows from the front, 3 rows from Markus.
The Q&A session with Markus was hosted by film critic and MIFF programmer Thomas Caldwell. Some of the questions from the audience included who Markus’ favourite character is (Rudy), and about a scene in the book which they found pivotal but which was not present in the film (Markus’ reply was quite complex and I was in awe with how all the words that came out of his mouth were so beautiful and I just stared at him so I do not recall what he actually said).
After the Q&A session in a flash 20 people were surrounding Markus asking for photographs and signatures. My knees were weak and I was flustered and just as I found the ability to walk again, we were asked to move to an autograph queue in the foyer. I marched outside so frantically I nearly knocked a woman over. I apologised and, realising I was being a crazy teenager, calmly lined up and let a couple of people go before me because they appeared genuinely busy and slightly impatient (and also because I felt guilty about accidentally bumping into that woman and wanted karma to be kind). My heart was beating like I had just gone jogging and my arms, holding 2 well-read copies of The Book Thief (one mine, one a friend’s) and a newly purchased copy of The Messenger, were shaking.
When Jennifer and I reached the front of the queue she had her book signed by Markus first, and they had a conversation while I stood by, hovering and smiling like a lunatic. Markus then signed my books. I can’t recall what I said to him because in my mind it was just ‘Ohmygooooooooosssssshoooohhhhmygoosshimmapassout’. And then, for some reason, Markus took a copy of Fighting Ruben Wolfe out of his bag, signed it, and gave it to me. He said something about my smile but my brain, as I said above, refused to work. It did at least manage to make me say ‘Thank you so much’ and ‘Have a good afternoon’, which I appreciate because I am so grateful for every word Markus has written. His books changed my life, changed my way of thinking, and I wanted him to know that.
I am now going to go off and read the inscriptions for the 100th time. I do hope you read the book first (of course), and then watch the film and tell me what you think.