How can anyone say this film is emotionally distant!?!
I've read Bernhard Schlink's novel back in high school (as all other high school students in German-speaking countries do...) and it didn't had much of an impact on me (you know, things that you MUST do often don't turn out to get one's interest - I mostly despised the reading assignments of my teacher).
But, oh man, this film struck me deeply.
It's not about the Holocaust - it's not that easy. It's about fault and justice and moral and shame and guilt and more about Michael as a member of the next generation that tries to cope with the guilt of their fathers' generation without being able to understand what goes on in their heads.
Who criticizes the film for making the viewer feel pity with Hannah didn't understand it at all. She the catalyst for the guilt, that naggingly tortures Michael and his generation. A generation which is ultimately brandmarked for crimes they didn't commit, but neither really tried hard to convict their fathers and mothers and teachers.
As for Hannah it's interesting how she takes guilt over public shame, which is another indicator that we, as the following generations can't understand the deviant moral code of those born in the 20s and 30s.
I can't understand her, and that makes her interesting as a character. She isn't monster, although she doesn't seem to feel too pity for her victims (again how could I understand her mindset) but we learn to know her as a regular character (and even though I already knew at the beginning how it'd turn out) and pity for this regular person and not with the SS guard. There's no excuse for what she did but it's a heart breaking story in a way - and at least she took the punishment and suffered.
Of course, I couldn't blank out what I already knew about the plot and the characters, thus I can only judge this film on this premise.
But with this knowledge I had a great movie experience that touched me quite a lot.
From a filmic perspective this is not much more than regular award bait. Performances are all strong (especially Ganz, Winslet and Fiennes - in this order) and Stephen Daldry's direction is outstanding. It must have been a crazy shoot though considering the time teenager David Kross spent naked in a bed with Hollywood goddess Kate Winslet. I also found it funny that they all spoke English with German accents (as if that would make it more realistic^^).