Posts Tagged ‘The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas’

Movie Reviews – The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

May 13, 2009

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

This is a haunting film that stays with you long after the credits roll.

The story is set in Germany during WW2, and is seen through the eyes of 8 year old Bruno, who’s family is moving to the countryside because his father, a senior officer in the SS has been given a new assignment. Upon arrival at the new location we discover the nature of his father’s work – he is the new commandant of a Jewish concentration camp, charged with executing the gruesome details of the Nazi final solution.

Against this backdrop sits Bruno’s family life, which is startling in its ordinariness. His mother struggles to find comfort in her new location, his sister is infatuated with an older boy who is posted at the house, and Bruno himself struggles with the loneliness and isolation of any child who finds himself in a new home. It is this ordinariness that sets the tone for the film, as Bruno and his family come to grips with questions of good and evil in the context of relative domestic normality. Sure, Bruno’s father may have been one of the greatest monsters in human history, but to Bruno, he was also just Dad.

As a friendship develops between Bruno and one of the children in the concentration camp, tensions grow within the family as the horrible details of his father’s work comes to light. The untenable veneer of domesticity in the shadow of the gas chambers slips away as the movie progresses, until we reach a shocking, disturbing conclusion. The final scenes were challenging and thought provoking, and from the dropped jaws on the faces of my fellow theatre-goers, I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one who thought so.

There is violence throughout the movie, but it is an implied violence – violence that occurs just around the corner and out of eyeshot for Bruno.  You know that it is taking place on both a personal and systemic level, but you never really witness it directly. It shows the sort of understated subtlety we’ve come to expect from Director Mark Herman (Brassed Off, Little Voice) who has turned in another impressive film here.

Asa Butterfield (Son of Rambow) is cast perfectly as Bruno, showing the right sort of charm and wide eyed innocence that allows this movie to move along at a steady pace, without becoming mired in the details of the atrocities that are occurring around him. David Thewlis (The Harry Potter Series) is outstanding as the German Commandant, terrible and haunting and loving and caring all at the same time.

Without wanting to give up too many of my guy credentials, I can honestly say that this film is heart-breaking. And challenging. And well worth seeing. Some movies hurt like a kick to the groin but leave you all the better for it. This is one of those movies.

Rating: 8/10

Random Quote: We’re not supposed to be friends, you and me. We’re meant to be enemies. Did you know that?

Random actor you’ll recognize from somewhere else;  Vera Farmiga, who played Madolyn, the psychiatrist torn between Matt Damon and Leo DiCaprio in The Departed is outstanding here as the Mother, torn between love, and loyalty and horror.

The Podium: Top Three Films About The Holocaust