Told, coolly...the novel was hugely popular as well as controversial worldwide and an Oprah's Book Club selection besides. I'm afraid it needed a different set of interpreters to make any emotional sense of it onscreen.
The Reader is the most undeserving of the five Academy Award nominees for Best Picture. A nice quality for a movie to have is if it has one or more characters to whom one can relate. In The Reader the two main characters are clods.
This is a film which asks us to contemplate the deeply complicated relationship between rational thought and instinctual feeling via a perverse intermingling of global horror and very, very local pain.