The Boy In Striped Pyjamas
“Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.” -John Betjemen.
The Boy In Striped Pyjamas is a story about Bruno, the eight-year-old son of a rising German officer, who gets promoted and is put in charge of an un-named ‘work camp’. Having to movie his family out of their comfortable lifestyle in Berlin, Bruno’s father isn’t allowed to tell them where they are going or what he will be doing.
It’s doesn’t take long for Bruno to discover a few things however, as his adventurous way finds him befriending a young Jewish boy who he finds on the other side of the fence, down the back of their new home.
It’s a secret friendship that he knows he can’t tell anyone about, especially when Bruno’s father brings in a teacher to ‘teach’ his sister and him. The State sanctioned teaching is more like propaganda, and whilst his sister swallows the party line, turning from a sweet innocent doll loving daughter, into an adoring fan of Hitler, and staunch hater of Jews, Bruno just day dreams and misses out on most of his ‘education.’
The movie takes a while setting the scene, but this is important as it helps to build up the characters and allows the viewer to enter into the story with ease. By the time Bruno meets the boy in the striped pyjamas the movie is about half way through and Bruno’s real education is about to start.
Only through his dreamy innocence can Bruno’s friendship with the young Jewish boy blossom, had his teacher managed to indoctrinate him, Bruno’s exploration and discoveries would never have eventuated, and his acts of kindness would never have matured into the movie’s only real example of humanity at it’s best.
The Boy In Striped Pyjamas is a fascinating look at the ease at which we except prejudice and discrimination, using the backdrop of Nazi Germany and Hitler’s Final Solution the film shows us how easily evil can manipulate people into believing what we can, in hindsight, say that no sane person would believe. The film also shows that despite the enormity of evil, that there will always be people with the courage to stand strong in their beliefs, no matter the scorn or the danger this may lead to.
To say any more about this spellbinding movie risks running into plot spoilers, territory that I’m not willing to movie into. Beautifully filmed and well acted my only concern going into this movie was the ability of two child actors to carry the most important scenes of the movie. My concern was ill founded as the two boys were mesmerising, with performances only outdone by Bruno’s mother.
I know it’s early in the year, but I’m gonna come right out and say that The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is one of the most compelling movies of the year, and one that I whole heartedly encourage you to go and see.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read.
Duration: 94 mins.
Genre: Drama, War.
Director: Mark Herman.
Actors: Asa Butterfield, Zac Mattoon O’Brien, Domonkos Németh, Henry Kingsmill, Vera Farmiga.
Release Date: 5 March, 2009.