As the events of the movie unfolded, I watched it in stunned silence. It is a beautiful love story in the backdrop of war crime. Set in war-torn, pre and post-Hitler era of Germany, Kate Winslet, a single 35-year old tram operator, finds a young, but sick, 15-year old (David Kross) on the tram one day and brings her home to take care of her. The two take a liking for each other and get into a passionate relationship and a throbbing affair. Till one day, Kate leaves town suddenly and quietly, leaving the kid heart-broken.
A few years later, the kid goes to law school and, as part of an internship training program, attends a high-profile court case where war crimes are being tried. Here, he is shocked beyond disbelief to find the object of his affection (Kate) on the stand as one of the accused. She is one of six guards accused of letting Jews die inside burning Church. Kate gets awarded a life imprisonment and spends 20 years in prison, while the world outside changes beyond recognition, her ex-love doesn't quite grow out of her and the effects of their relationship taking a toll on his grown-up life too, making it a bit of a mess. But the kid (who nows goes to become an adult, played by Ralph Fiennes) somehow decides to revisit the past and somehow looks forward to meeting her when, after 20 years, Kate is scheduled to be set free. However, fate has something else in store.
The film offers a poignant reminder about tales on what went behind the holocaust and the dastardly acts and atrocities were not just committed with the intention of committing them, but could also have been committed by unknowing - no matter how stupid they may sound at first - forces. Such acts not only turn the victims' lives upside down, but also those who committed them. The screenplay, the direction, the art-direction and the music are all very good. Performances are its best part. Kate Winslet is one of the best actresses of her generation. With her subtle portrayal as Hanna Schmidt, she blows you away, completely, and though I have not seen the works of this year's other Oscar Best Actress contenders, I won't be surprised if I would still end up liking Kate's work the best. David Kross and Ralph Fiennes was good too. It was hard to digest that this was the same Ralph Fiennes who is the chief villain (Lord Voldemort) in Harry Potter films.
One of the first things that come to mind by watching films such as these, is how far behind Bollywood is from Hollywood. While our Hindi film makers spend precious time in making their actors run around trees and sing and dance, Hollywood film-makers have gone miles ahead achieved cinematic excellence in telling, amongst many other types, soulful stories that keep you thinking about them for days together.