The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

"Very Good"

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Review


In Mark Herman's adaptation of John Boyne's controversial children's bestseller offering a kid's-eye view of Holocaust, the young eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) has the wide, blue-eyed innocence of the unprotected. Sheltered and half in a fantasy world, he runs through city streets with his friends, his arms outstretched like wings, gliding untouched through the busy and congested world of adults. Herman bathes these opening scenes in a fantastic fairy-tale burnish, like a golden world ready to be lost.

Bruno shares a family dinner with his loving parents (Vera Farmiga and David Thewlis) and his older sister Gretel (Amber Beattie). With their sparkling British Masterpiece Theatre accents, the family appears as well-scrubbed paragons of British banality. (Even Richard Johnson, that great bastion of British nobility from the epics of the 1960s, is exhumed to appear as the family's Grandpa.) So it comes as a shock when Thewlis dons a German commandant's uniform for a going-away party and Herman quietly reveals that the Dad has been reassigned, taking the family with him. As Dad remarks, "Home is where the family is." In this case, however, home is Auschwitz and Dad is the new camp commandant, who will be supervising the mass exterminations.

The family arrives at its new home, an imposing, Godless mansion, and dark smoke from the Auschwitz furnaces billows in the background. Herman frames this detail matter-of-factly, as one more image in the composition, trying to place the point-of-view somewhat from Bruno's perspective, which, as the film progresses, becomes trickier and trickier to maintain.

That's especially so when Bruno, being taught blatant hate from a rabid, though coolly controlled, anti-Semitic tutor, is told, "I think, Bruno, if you ever found a nice Jew, you would be the greatest explorer in the world." At that point, Bruno has already found his "nice Jew," another eight-year-old boy, Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a broken, bedraggled inmate of the concentration camp, whom Bruno sneaks out to see and pass the time with on the opposite side of barbed wire of the camp. The idea of a concentration camp is beyond Bruno's comprehension, thinking the place to be a farm where the farmers wear pajamas, and asking Shmuel if the tattooed number on his wrist is part of a game along with, "What do you burn in those chimneys?"

Herman shoots these scenes delicately, but it also sends the film into a real storybook mode, which makes the film disturbing in ways not intended. Bruno apparently has no problem meeting up with Shmuel every day by the barbed wire, and there is never a patrolling soldier in evidence, making Auschwitz look less like Auschwitz and more like a minimum-security honor's prison farm in South Carolina. And when the reality of Auschwitz takes hold of Bruno's family, all of Herman's delicate setup is abandoned. Gretel becomes an impassioned Hitler youth, Mom deteriorates into a shallow shell of her previously vibrant self, and Dad, as played by Thewlis, turns into a buffoonish caricature -- contemptuously blowing cigarette smoke, slamming his fist on a table demanding more wine, and adopted a popeyed, addled expression like a bad guy Nazi from an old Sgt. Fury comic book.

But Herman regains his footing for the harrowing final scene of the film, when Bruno digs under the fence to help Shmuel find his father. All the pretenses of the family are shattered as the charnel house smoke finally consumes Mom, Dad, Gretel, and Bruno, and the reality of who these ordinary people really are becomes a devastating experience for both the characters and the audience.

Aka The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

So that's where my spare went.



The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Facts and Figures

Run time: 94 mins

In Theaters: Friday 28th November 2008

Box Office USA: $9.0M

Box Office Worldwide: $20.4M

Budget: $12.5M

Distributed by: Miramax

Production compaines: Miramax Films, BBC Films, Heyday Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 85 Rotten: 50

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Rosie Alison

Starring: as Father, as Bruno, Zac Mattoon O'Brien as Leon, Domonkos Németh as Martin, Henry Kingsmill as Karl, as Mother, Jack Scanlon as Shmuel, Cara Horgan as Maria, Amber Beattie as Gretel, Zsuzsa Holl as Berlin Cook, László Áron as Lars, as Grandpa, as Grandma, Charlie Baker as Palm Court Singer, Iván Verebély as Meinberg, Béla Fesztbaum as Schultz, as Lieutenant Kurt Kotler

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Advertisement
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.