I read the book by Bernard Schlink and watched the movie this evening.
The emotional power of the book was overwhelming and the emotional power of watching the movie the day after finishing the book was debilitating.
The second quickest way to a man's heart is his stomach. But Bernard Schlink realized that the very quickest way to a man's heart is his penis. Thus he wrote a book centered around holocaust issues published in 1995 (which is now required reading in college level courses) implementing the ingenious device of youthful eroticism as a bridge to empathic understanding.
The mixture of eroticism with a philosophical inquiry into the nature of guilt was like getting my metaphorical G-spot hammered by double penetration. Schlink uses the most powerful device imaginable to capture a sense of understanding for those caught in the middle of the holocaust and faced with overwhelming dilemmas. Dilemmas between - being a hero.... being killed for your heroics...... being killed for not being heroic... or worse maybe.... neither.
According to Schlink, criticism of his book comes mostly from the second and third generations after the holocaust who can't allow a moment's hesitation before condemning anyone remotely associated, often including their own parents. But from the generation who actually were there, very little criticism.
If I had to choose a book to make a movie from it would be this. A book of 218 short pages, where the lead character "Hanna" receives extraordinarily few lines and leaves the director open to flesh out the story in ways unobtainable by the author. Unlike most movies from books, I found it to be perfectly complementary and edifying to the story. The director captured the spirit of the writing and Kate Winslet's best actress oscar was well deserved for capturing the spirit of a character with incredibly little to say.
I feel embarrassed by the critics who gave the story bad reviews. Maybe this is a story where the book is really mandatory to capture the meaning of the movie. Maybe without the book it would not have been so good, I'll never know. But I do know that it is a testament to the movie that the book only makes it better, not worse. And also, maybe it is a story where heterosexual males who still remember what it is like to be young are most unevenly affected.