The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas - emer breen

10 Points

Viewer Rating:emer breen has rated The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas rating: 4 Star

This film far exceeded my expectations. Like many avid readers, having thoroughly enjoyed the enchanting book, I was concerned that its translation onto the big screen would be a disaster but I was more than pleasantly surprised with the excellent work of the director and cast. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas tells the story of Bruno, the 8-year-old son of a high-ranking Nazi Commandant (David Thewlis) who, as the film begins, is moving his family out of the city to be near a new "project" that he is overseeing. While the audience understands that this "project" is a concentration camp for Jews, Bruno is blissfully unaware of the harsh reality. We follow him as he is largely shielded from the reality of World War II, we witness him develop a forbidden friendship with Schmuel, a Jewish boy held captive in the concentration camp. Both boys are hungry, Bruno is longing for companionship and sees only a friend in the boy in raggedy stripes sitting across the wire. Meanwhile, poor Shmuel (Scanlon) is just hungry for food. Though the two are separated physically by a barbed wire fence, their lives become intertwined. The fence represents more than a barrier, their lives are utterly opposite and it is this stark difference between the two boy's lives that makes the climax of the movie all the more poignant. Perhaps the ending is the most surprising part of the film. I don't want to spoil it but suffice it is to say that it is shocking, unexpected and terrifying. You will not be prepared - so beware, you will not leave the cinema quite as cheerful as you entered! In fact, we are grimly taken away from fairytale into the sickening truths of history. Even the most hardcore amongst us have to recoil at some of the images. As the film progresses Bruno begins to become suspicious that there may be a problem with him having a Jew as a friend, and that life in the camp may not be all about playing games and dressing up in pyjamas, as it initially appears to him. Bruno's initially happy family unit begins to descend into confusion, arguments and awkward silences. The Commandant appears to be a good soldier following orders dutifully. However, through his wife, we learn that he is deeply entwined in Hitler's Holocaust. His wife, played superbly by Vera Farmiga, gives an outstanding peformance as she tries to come to terms with what her husband has been doing to the Jews. Her disgust with her husband and her love for Bruno are portrayed to sheer perfection. Meanwhile, the prejudices slowly enveloping his teen sister are alien to Bruno, although he is beginning to witness large cracks developing in their relationship as she proudly mounts pictures of Nazis in uniform instead of playing with her dolls. What appealed to me most about this film is that it conveys such a strong message but without showing us the sheer horror of the war. We are presented with a gentle tale of childhood naivete but with transient glimpses of the inside of the concentration camp and the terror of the regime the inmates are forced to endure. The emotional story of Bruno and Shmuel sheds light on the brutality, senselessness and devastating consequences of war from an innocent point of view. The heartfelt tale helps us recall the millions of innocent victims of the Holocaust. The friendship between the two boys is innocent and pure, they are totally ignorant of the horrible adult conflict that consumes the real world. The director has done a superb job in evoking the era of World War 11, the family's enormous but cold mansion with locks and bars and decorated with red, white and black nazi flags, the teams of harsh, proper suited soldiers, the lavish parties and the glamorous guests and all this observed through the eyes of a young boy. Tackling the era of the Nazis is no mean feat and in my view, the director has succeeded where so many others fail. The work of the director, cast and crew is flawless. But it is the two boys, Bruno and Schmuel, played by Asa Butterfield and Jack Scanlon respectively who carry the film. The shattering of Bruno's innocence and his belief in his father's goodness is played out perfectly by Butterfield, as he searches for the truth. At the same time, the expressions of incredulity and then resignation on the face of Scanlon are poignant yet real. These two young talents deliver convincing performances and occupy nearly every scene. In fact, with the exception of Vera Farmiga, the adults in the film are in the background and very one dimensional. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas will undoubtedly provoke uneasy questions about humanity, about the ravages of war and about the pointlessness of prejudices. We see the harsh shattering of a child's innocence and a child's belief that their parents are perfect and noble. This is without a doubt the mos tharrowing and inspiring drama I've seen this year.

Review published on the 10 September 2008 16:13

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Ever seen A Grown Man Cry? - HSP

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