Old 01-23-2009, 06:06 PM
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008)

The world can appear to be so bright and vibrant through a child's eyes. Everything is still so fresh and new as they explore it. Something terrible could be going on right under their nose and they might not even realize it, at least, not until it is too late.

Eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) and his family have recently moved to the countryside from Berlin due to his father (David Thewlis) receiving a promotion. Bruno's father just happens to be an official in the Nazi army of Germany during World War II. Their new home places them within walking distance of a concentration camp that is supposedly part of Bruno's father's work. While exploring the backyard, Bruno comes upon the camp and meets one of its inhabitants, a young boy named Shmuel (Jack Scanlon) who is also eight years old. They strike up an unlikely friendship as Bruno tries to figure out what the camp is for.

The main reason that this film works is that it is told mostly from Bruno's point of view. This could have easily turned into another movie about the Holocaust, but it takes this unique route instead. We already know what is going on, but we watch with fascination as Bruno tries to discover the purpose of the camp. He discovers it first when he looks out of his bedroom window. He thinks it is simply a farm, but is confused as to why everyone is wearing pajamas.

One of the first questions that Bruno asks Shmuel is about the pajamas. His answer? Everyone has them, and a number. He doesn't say why, they just do. In Bruno's childish mind he thinks it is some kind of game. Neither of these children know the true purpose of the camps. Shmuel tells us that his grandparents were taken to a hospital as soon as they arrived, but he has not seen them. His child-like ignorance has saved him from the horrifying truth.

Meanwhile, a tutor has come to teach Bruno and his sister. They are to learn what every other German child learns about; the evil of Jews and how they caused Germany to lose World War I, and other such horrible bigotry and racist teachings. Bruno's father wants his children to be like everyone else. He wants them to grow up believing that this is all for the fatherland. This only leads Bruno to further confusion as he continues his meetings with Shmuel. At one point, his tutor tells him, "If you ever found a nice Jew, you would be the best explorer in the world." Bruno has already realized that his tutor's teachings are completely untrue.

The film effectively switches to the mother's point of view briefly as she discovers exactly what is going on in the camp. She and Bruno have both noticed the smoke coming from the stacks in the camp, but are not able to tell what is being burned. One of the soldiers lets a comment slip, thinking Bruno's mother knows. From here on, her view of her husband’s work is nothing but disgust. She has realized the truth, but how long will it take young Bruno?

When Bruno's father and other soldiers are watching a film about the camps, Bruno watches it in secret through a window. It is nothing more than a propaganda film trying to give a positive picture of the camps, that tells such lies as how the inhabitants love to play sports, how well they are fed because of the cafe, and how they are allowed to pursue almost any hobby they wish. To an eight year old, this propaganda film may be sufficient proof, but to the rest of us, it is revolting.

The main problem of this film lies in its ending. It is an emotionally powerful ending that didn't seem like it fit well with the rest of the film. Granted, eight year olds are ignorant in many areas and Bruno could have been heavily influenced by the propaganda film, but even he should have known that what he was doing was foolish and incredibly stupid. What had been an interesting film up to that point ended up slipping away into an ending that became way too predictable and easily avoidable.

Despite the flawed ending, director Mark Herman has given us an interesting film from an interesting perspective. Bruno had known that his father was a soldier and that now he was becoming a "more important soldier." He had never really known anything about his father's work or what was happening in Germany while he was living in Berlin. Sometimes even war cannot penetrate a child's innocence until they are face-to-face with it. 3/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 01-23-2009 at 06:30 PM..
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