"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak was thought by many of its readers to be a sort of unfilmable story, but 20th Century Fox decided to give it a go anyway with the help of director Brian Percival of "Downton Abbey" note, and from the looks of this first trailer for the pic, it's been a solid effort indeed. But there's just one small — okay, make that HUGE — thing seemingly lost in translation.
The adaptation stars young noob Sophie Nélisse as Liesel Memimger, a girl whose brother is killed by a train as her mother transports the children to a foster family — Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush) and his strict wife (Emily Watson) — to escape her Communist past, only to land the girl smack dab in the middle of World War II and Germany's Nazi occupation.
Little Liesel likes to use the five finger discount to gather reading material for herself during these lean times, but it's the family's newest charge, a Jewish boy named Max (Ben Schnetzer) who's owed refuge due to on an old life debt between Mr. Hubermann and his father, which makes things really dicey for the brood ... especially since their own horrible son is off heil-ing it up for the bad guys.
Percival's take on the story appears to be pretty solid and touching and all, but the one central character missing from this first-glimpse is the Grim narrator, Death.
Considering the character adds measure and layering to the story of Liesel, not to mention the very title of this thing, it'd be a pretty big loss if that part got nixed altogether. But probably only to the, oh, two and a half million or so who actually read it. So, we'll see.
"The Book Thief" steals into theaters on Nov. 15.
UPDATE: Phew. Zusak himself has now addressed the matter on his blog, assuring, "Just as he does in the book, Death will help look after us. And he’ll do his very best." Well, okay then.