Books on literature and art amid war adapted to the screen

‘The Book Thief’ is about a girl’s growing passion for books during World War II; ‘Monuments Men’ is about the race to save art stolen during that war

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SAM Epstein, George Clooney, John Goodman, Bob Balaban and Matt Damon

CATE Blanchett

Works by the world’s greatest artists, centuries-old monumental structures, and powerful books salvaged during World War II are the focus of forthcoming movies from 20th Century Fox.

“The Book Thief,” based on the  acclaimed best-selling novel by Australian author Markus Zusak, introduces us to a German girl named Liesel Meminger.

Set during World War II in Germany in January 1939, the film stars Sophie Nélisse as 9-year-old Liesel—a foster child living outside Munich who is brought to a community where she discovers a passion for books.

At a time of conflict and uncertainty, Liesel is brought to her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) while her younger brother Werner dies along the way.

Life-affirming

GOEFFREY Rush leads the cast of “The Book Thief”

In the cemetery where her brother is buried, Liesel discovers a book titled “The Grave Digger’s Handbook”—the first that would form part of her collection. She eventually becomes “The Book Thief.”

The original book is transformed into an affirming, life-changing movie by the production team that brought “Life of Pi” to the big screen and Brian Percival, director of several episodes of the high-profile TV series “Downton Abbey.”

Nélisse, who played a starring role in “Monsieur Lazhar” in 2011, says her “Book Thief” role was daunting. Narrated by Death, the story’s tough emotional content has Nelisse’s character, Liesel, coming of age in an intolerant society destroyed by war.

‘The Monuments Men’

A whole lot of art loot is at stake in the action-thriller  “The Monuments Men,” produced, directed and top-billed by George Clooney along with an all-star cast including Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin.

Based on the nonfiction book by Robert Edsel, “The Monuments Men” takes us back to World War II when Western Allies protect heritage sites at risk during the war and recover art treasures from the Nazis.

Clooney collaborates with writer/producer Grant Heslov to film a chapter of the war when a group of men and women from different countries recover thousands of stolen artworks.

Art professionals

The film details how art professionals drafted during the war—architects, designers and museum staff—are formed into a team to identify and protect museums, churches and other significant “monuments” from damage.  As the Allies press farther into occupied territory, the team has to determine what have been stolen and where they’ve been hidden.

An impossible mission that sees them trapped within enemy lines, “The Monuments Men” find themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1,000 years of culture, risking their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest achievements.

“The Monuments Men” will open in January 2014, while “The Book Thief” will screen in February. Visit the 20th Century Fox (Philippines) Facebook page and 20thCenturyFoxPh on YouTube.

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