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It would take a vastly superior director than Mark Herman (he of weighty dramas such as "Blame it on the Bell Boy" and "Brassed Off") to make this one fly - a tale of a lonely eight-year-old boy who makes friends through the fence of a Nazi death camp with a young Jewish lad, the boy in the striped pyjamas of the title.
As it is, this film adaptation of John Boyne's popular but controversial book is directed by Mark Herman, and the result is a flaccid, watery, self-serious, far-fetched wannabe fable that borders on the offensive in it's attitude and message.
It's World War II - our young hero Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is happy in his life in Berlin; his Dad, Ralph (David Thewlis) is an SS Officer who's clearly doing alright for a few marks given the size of the house Bruno has to run around playing soldier with his mates.
Ralf is given a promotion, which means he has to take his family - Bruno, his beautiful wife Elsa (Vera Farmiga), and daughter Greta (Amber Beattie) away to the countryside, to live in a sinister concrete house in the woods. Bruno is not impressed, although his curiosity is piqued by the "farm" he can see from his bedroom window - perhaps there might be some children to play with after all?
The lonely Bruno is confined to the front yard of the house, where all he can do is play with his ball, make a swing, watch his sister flirt with Kotler (Rupert Friend), a young, arrogant model Aryan who works for their father.
Of course, boarding up Bruno's window so he can't see the farm anymore, and making a big secret of the back yard is catnip to a bored eight year old boy, especially in a film like this, where the early stages of Bruno's life in his new house are shot and portrayed like a new glossy adaptation of "The Secret Garden".
Bruno is also curious about the chimneys he can see, and the funny smell coming from them - an attempt to stand up on his swing causes him to fall flat on his face, but is patched up by the family's servant-slave Pavel (David Hayman), a kindly aging Jewish doctor who is reduced to peeling potatoes as an additional slap in the face to being interned in a concentration camp.
Finally Bruno makes it over to the fence of the farm - which turns out to be curiously electrified - where he meets the skinny, ragged and scared Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), who turns out to be the same age as Bruno, and a tentative friendship strikes up through the wires.
From here on it's all the usual twists and turns you might expect - Bruno sneaking food out to the starving Shmuel; Ralf acting all cagey every time he's asked an awkward question about farms, people in striped pyjamas and chimneys; Ralf also acting like the villain in a Scooby Doo cartoon every time he goes off to work - "Excuse me - I need to attend to some........business."; the brutal and harsh Kotler having a subversive in his family, etc, etc.
Where the film completely falls down is in tone, perspective, and execution - pretty important areas when trying to approach a painful subject from a different angle.
There are moments, such as when Bruno is running through the woods, and a couple of POV shots here and there, when the film truly attempts to see the world through a child's eyes. However, these moments are few and far between, and Herman seems to be confused - telling a story from a child's perspective doesn't mean just having child actors on the screen most of the time.
Consider this film in comparison to another film from 2008, Garth Jennings' "Son of Rambow", which truly attempts to show the world from a child's perspective - the enlarging of scenery to make things seem massive; turning a school's Sixth Form block into a decadent club where the older kids sniff smelly erasers and shoot coke & pop rocks. This absorbing approach completely took the viewer into the child's world and made the story far more believable because of it.
Any kind of fable-like aspect of the story is completely lost due to the flat, by-the-numbers direction, and glossy but uninspired cinematography that makes the whole film look like a made for TV effort; a more talented director might have made something out of the set up or the location. As another example, look at how skilfully Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" counterpoints a child's fantasy world with the true horrors of war to make them seem interchangeable, to stunning and moving effect.
Perhaps the main problem of the film - and I'll need to read the book to see if it's as flawed & inherently bad as the adaptation - is that it just doesn't make any sense.
OK, so Bruno's only eight, and when you're eight you have certain blind spots, and some things go over your head completely. But just because you're eight, it doesn't mean you're daft - Bruno seems like a bright kid, but he is apparently completely oblivious to what's happening to the Jews in the community around him, and continually asks stupid questions of Shmuel, such as (I'm paraphrasing) - why are you wearing striped pyjamas? Why have you got a number - is it a game? Is this fence for keeping the animals in? Have you got lots of friends over there? And so on, and so on.
He's a bright kid; he lives in Nazi Germany, in the capital, Berlin; his Dad is an SS Officer; he has friends, who presumably have family and other friends, who presumably must talk about what's happening all around them - surely not all of this can have passed him by?
The story seems to perpetuate the old myth that the average, normal, decent German of the time simply had no idea what was happening to the Jews, and for Bruno to be this naive, perhaps it would be more believable if he was younger, or mildly retarded.
The ending also leaves a rather strange residue - I'll try not to spoil it for you; suffice it to say, in an almost "Tales of the Unexpected"-style reversal of fortunes, it seems to try transferring the horrors of the holocaust onto the family of an SS Extermination Camp Commandant, and somehow expects you to feel sympathy for them AS WELL as absorb the enormity of mankind's greatest sorrow.
Other irritations include the stiff, earnest, shamelessly Oscar-baiting performances from the cast, all of whom irritatingly speak in plummy English accents. One reviewer pointed out this shouldn't really make a difference, as real Germans at the time wouldn't be speaking English in German accents either - except, of course, it does make a difference. It makes the film seem to exist in a parallel universe where the holocaust happened in the Home Counties.
In the whole sorry enterprise there is only one moment approaching art - a quite startling image of a gas-masked soldier pouring Zyklon B through an opening into a gas chamber.
Apart from the final scenes, the rest of the film is Schindler-lite, a rather old fashioned and polite tale which attempts to dilute the Nazi's mass slaughter of millions of Jews into an inoffensive, cosy, non-scary, populist, touching family film, and perhaps pick up a few awards along the way. Absolutely despicable nonsense, only slightly less reprehensible than Holocaust denial.
(This review first appeared on Ciao! under my username Midwinter.)
This film is set in war time Germany, the main character being the child of a high ranking leader in the German army. After a happy life in Berlin the young boy and his family have to move away. Moving from their large home with waiters/maids/servants in Berlin they end up in an old and slightly run down home. The boy who loves adventure wants to explore his new home, the new fences he can see from his room and its surroundings, yet isnt allowed..
After many weeks in his new home the boy notices new people working in the kitchen, wearing 'striped pyjamas'. His parents dislike the fact that he talks to these new people and soon after the audience cotton on to the fact they are Jewish prisoners.
The young boy takes his chances and goes off exploring, only to come across a boy sitting on the other side of the fence. They chat and get to know each other, play games and share food.
On the last of his many trips to see his new jewish friend he puts on these Pj's and goes under the fence..
Without revealing too much of the film, I have to say, the ending is the best bit. The whole film builds up to that one moment when anyone and everyone realises where the film is heading. An extremely sad ending, but an extremely good one at that. The book is, as always, slightly different. I recommend either reading or watching boy in striped pyjamas, not both. It will ruin whichever comes last.
The film has no major actors or actresses that you will have heard of, but the actors are certainly good. The film work, camera work and scenery etc. is utterly amazing.
I found this rendition of the book rather good, though the book is definitely better. I guess with all books that are made into films, the book (being the original) is better.
A film that I would advise watching with a box of tissues, and/or someone to cuddle. I will definitely watch this film again.
Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a novel which came out two years before being released as a movie based on the story. This review is just on the film. I haven't read the novel so can't make comparisons or comment on which is the best out of the two, but the movie was outstanding.
It is set in a remote countryside village in Berlin and the main character is an 8 year old boy and the movie is mainly about what he comes across when exploring.
Throughout the film you see things through his way of thinking contrary to the way the people around him think. He is told very little about what is going on for the people who are not like him. He is He doesn't understand what is going on and thinks of the camps as an ordinary place i.e. asking Schumel if they can go to "the cafe or something". He is ignorant to what is happening because he has never been told. He finds out from his sister and the young boy in the camp he meets. This later leads him to question what is happening. He and his mother are the ones who seem the most moved out of them all.
When he meets the young boy from the camp, Schumel, at the back of the forrest backing onto their garden from a window in an outside hut he becomes close to him often going there to talk with him, play games and give him foods. He finds himself making excuses for himself i.e. when he goes out he says he's going to play on the swings, when the female housekeeper questions why he is hiding sandwiches he doesn't let her in on anything. He keeps it a secret from everybody around him and looks forward to seeing him. There is nobody to play or focus himself on but homeschooling, his sister and the house. When he explores out back he finds a whole new place.
The violence in this film compared to say 'Schindler's List' is not as frequent but there is a hard to watch where an eldery housekeeper is dragged out and beaten to death by an SS officer after he spills a glass on wine, you hear the punches. This comes straight after a conversation with Bruno's fathers where he questions him. The conversation comes up after he tells Bruno history was his favourite subject which didn't please his father. He tells Bruno's father he was a professor and moved to Switzerland and this makes the SS officer feel uncomfortable. This leads you to be believe he has something to hide and by beating him to death he was trying to prove a point and avoid being outed. I think this is a horrid scene which goes to show the lengths those people would take because of pride and wanting to maintain respect. I think it's disgusting the way the father continues eating throughout showing no emotion. His wife is very different and feels sad/disturbed by what is going on.
Bruno and his sister discuss what happened later in the evening and it is clear she isn't bothered while explaining what happens very matter of fact and thinks of it as the norm. You see Nazi propaganda and posters all over her walls. She thinks of the Jews as being no good at anything, evil dangerous vermin and the reason why they lost the great war. Bruno sees it differently and thinks of his father as being in charge of a horrible place. He later thinks about what his sister and father have said while remembering Schmuel. I think this leads the viewer to believe that he can't accept what they're saying because he knows differently: he knows Schumel is no different to him.
It is clear throughout that Bruno's mother does not share her husbands views. They are often arguing and at the table you see by the remarks she makes and looks she gives him that she does not agree with what he stands for. She is the one who shows gratitude towards the housekeeper earlier in the movie, thanking him for helping Bruno when he is hurt. She does not treat Jews like she is superior to them like the rest of the adults they associate with.
When Bruno is sent to work in the house a guard notices him eating and asks whether he has been stealing food. He questions Bruno and he denies knowing him saying "I don't know this Jew". You see him later with a black eye and you can tell that the guard had treated him brutally. He is only a child deprived of food but this was common because SS officers thought of themselves as superior. It also raises the question that had Bruno accepted he knew him it would've been likely that he'd never see him again.
This may be made recently but the clothing, scenes etc match the time the film is set in. It doesn't not make you think that this doesn't look like it was set in that time due to it being new. It makes what happens look more real.
The cast all perform great and I have no criticisms. They aren't well known to me (I haven't seen them in movies before) but the way they played the characters given was to a high stand. One of the most memorable scenes for me towards the end when Bruno's sister just stares at the sandwich on the floor when she sees what he could have been doing. The way she played this scene goes perfectly and adds to the emotion and makes her of something both her and the mother did not know until then.
Although some of what occurs in the film did happen: people were gassed in camps, it is a highly unrealistic portrayal for a number of reasons. First off it wouldn't be possible for a young boy of 8 to sit around in a camp doing nothing, there were guards present and he would have been shot for not working, some people there were worked to death. The guards did barrack counts and if an extra boy was present it wouldn't go unrecognised. It was unusual for children to stay for a long period of time, children on arrival at Auschwitz were normally lined up to be sent to the gas chambers or death barracks. It wouldn't have been possible to sneak clothing just as easy as that either, or dig a hole without anyone seeing or getting hurt by the electric wired fence. It's a powerful story overall but events like these shown are misleading for people who don't know what went on. It could lead them to believe it was easier there than a lot of people know it wasn't. The only thing they did touch on that would've been factual was that he was always hungry and asking for food. and it's likely parents went missing, a lot of people perished and got ill while in the working camps.
Towards the end something terrible happens, both Bruno and Schumel go through this together and the viewer sees the mother, father and sister's reactions to it all. This is the most emotion you see from the father and at the moment he sees what he has done.
Overall I think of this film as sad with a powerful message.
I've been meaning to watch this for ages having heard so much about it & now that I'm no longer watching the World Cup I thought I'd settle down & watch something serious. I wasn't expecting to enjoy the film because of the content, but felt I should see it as a mark of respect to the millions who died in concentration camps in Nazi Germany between 1939 - 1945.
Having studied the holocaust in both my history & psychology degrees (mainly based on factual accounts, historical data & psychological studies & possible explanations) it seemed only right that I get yet another perspective by watching this film based on the book.
The film focuses on the family of a high-ranking German officer who is given promotion from Berlin to 'the countryside' to their new home which is close to the concentration camp the father will be running. The family comprise mother, father, 12 year old Gretel & 8 year old Bruno & we follow the change in all the characters as the film progresses.
Initially Bruno thinks the camp is a farm but all is gradually revealed as he is a bored & adventurous boy who needs to explore places he is forbidden to go.
We meet Schmuel, another 8 year old boy, on the other side of the fence & are introduced to aspects of life ( & death) in the camp & view it from both a child's & adults' perspective.
I must admit to not having yet read the book & wasn't expecting too much from this film but I have to say I found it haunting & memorable. The futility, waste & madness of these years is well portrayed yet in a simple & understated manner. There's no uneccessary padding or explanation given & I've found myself thinking about the film wondering what happened to the family as if it was real. I think I often tend to view the holocaust victims en masse & forget that everyone was an individual with their own story to tell & I think this is a shock reminder.
I didn't know any of the actors Apart from a brief role played by Sheila Hancock) so I wasn't influenced by any other characters they may have played. I thought the acting was good throughout - most credit being given to the 2 boys who played their roles admirably.
Overall the film leaves an impression of innocence versus incredible cruelty which is really what these period in German history was all about. I found myself, on the one hand, wanting Bruno to actually see what was going on on the other side of the fence, but on the other wanting to shield & protect him from the horrors. Inevitably he found out for himself.
I have to say I found The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas to be a memorable & haunting film. I wouldn't say it was Oscar-winning but I'm pleased I made time to watch it.
I hadnt heard too much about this film when we settled down to watch it yesterday evening but what I did know was that I wanted to see it! I had heard that it was about a young boy living in World War Two but that was all I knew. We watched this on DVD but this is a film only review as we did not have time to watch any of the extras.
Bruno is 8. He lives in Berlin with his mother, father and sister. His father is in the army and one day his parents tell him that they are to move to the countryside. Him and his sister, Gretel are very upset as they will miss their friends.
Moving day arrives and when they get to their new house Bruno sees what he believes to be a farm out of the window. He asks his father why they are all dressed in pyjamas and this obviously hits a raw nerve with his mother as she starts asking her husband how close they actually are and says that he promised they would be miles away.
Bruno doesnt understand what they mean but he is very lonely and desperate for friends. He has seen children on this 'farm' and decides to head over to play when he gets there he is astonished as the 'farm' is behind a large metal fence. He gets chatting to a young boy and soon they are firm friends. Will Bruno ever discover the truth of the 'farm'?
This film was brilliantly done. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking and it really hit home when we watched it. Throughout the film they tackle a very difficult subject and I believe that this subject was taken on board, thought about and approached very well.
Bruno comes across as an absolutely lovely child who anyone would be proud to call their own. This is of key importance within the film as it makes you really back Bruno throughout, want the best for him and also for his new friend. In a way you want to shelter Bruno from the truth but you also want him to discover the truth so he can try to help. I accept he is only young, aged 8 but if he had known the truth I imagine he would have taken on his friendship very differently.
The acting in the film was absolutly brilliant and Asa Butterfield as Bruno showed true talent for a child so young. The other actors were all also very good and they did a superb job of portraying a family in the war. Vera Farmiga also did a fantastic job of playing Bruno's mother and she came across as very likeable and realistic.
The plot of the film flowed really well and it seemed to be over as soon as it started. The ending was done very well, I am not going to say any more than that regarding the ending as it will just give it away but it was not the ending I was expecting and I was shocked.
The film was made in 2008.
It was directed by Mark Herman.
It is rated a 12 for some scenes of violence.
The best film I have watched so far this year without a doubt.
I had really been looking forward to seeing this film, i had missed it at the cinema so i got the dvd.
I am afraid to say it was not as good as I had been expecting.
It had quite a slow start and i felt that it ended to soon also!
The trailers seemed to show all the best parts and there wasnt that much excitement or intrest in between what I had seen on the trailers.
However the performance of the boy who played Bruno, was extremley watchable, he had very expressive eyes. He gave a 'real' performance. But I felt let down by the performance of the little jewish boy Schmall. It didnt really feel as if had connected to the part.
Normally I am easily brought to tears by emotional films, but i didnt connect with the character you should be feeling for so not much emotion was felt by me until the final scene, which was really the only gritty and harrowing part.
However saying all this I do think the film was intresting to see the point of view from another side to most films in this genre, to see the mothers reactions, did make you think about what the german civillians also went through.
It is worth a watch but dont expect to much, I would say it wasnt a complete waste of an evenings viewing but it wont be kept in my permanent collection.
This is a story about a friendship of innocence. At times harrowing and with a powerful ending, it tells of two boys who meet at a Nazi prison camp. Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is the son of a Nazi officer who has recently been promoted and moves to outside the camp. Jack Scanlon plays Shmuel, a boy prisoner inside the camp. The two meet by chance in a seemingly unguarded and secluded corner of the camp, each on different sides of the fence keeping the prisoners in. They are unaware of the gravity of the war, of the religious differences they are supposed to have, and unsure of the reasons for the segregation.
The film is shown basically through Bruno's eyes, as we follow him as he makes his way around his new house, finding a secret window through which he can escape to go and visit his new friend. It's like this that he first stumbles across the fence and Shmuel, as his mother has been careful to try and prevent him from being able to see what is going on inside the camps. As a result, Bruno believes it to be a farm, and thinks the strange striped pyjamas (the prison outfit) that Shmuel wears and the number on his shirt are merely part of an elaborate game and he is keen to play.
This innocence is a startling look at how things must have been kept somewhat covered up at the time, and with propaganda and belief making sure that people believed it was the right thing to be happening. The sheer atrocities happening in the camps, such as the mass killing of Jews systematically through a gas chamber, is a harrowing enough thought, without having the pain of innocence and youthful ignorance added to the heartstring tugging.
It's very powerful in how it depicts things happening, and there is a lot of emotion not just exuding through in the atmosphere, but also in the scenes where we see Bruno's family at home. His innocence continues here, and despite his elder sister's relative understanding of events, he still remains blinkered. The fact that their Jewish servant used to be a doctor makes Bruno think he can't have been that good, and is only exposed to the violence often associated with this era with an outburst of pent up anger from his father's junior officer. The shock we see on his face in another indication of the innocence involved here, and another powerful moment in the film.
The acting is very good from both boys, and really, this is what the film's focus is on. David Thewlis plays Bruno's father very well, and Vera Farmiga is equally impressive as his mother, but it's really the two child actors who are the stars. The way they hold their conversations as if everything was complete normality is quite daunting to watch as a viewer. The fact that two 8 year old boys can sit either side of a fence in the midst of desolation and in a war torn country, and not think anything of it other than it's a game or it's what they're told is normal, is quite a powerful tool, and credit must really go to the author of the tale here: John Boyne. I haven't read the book, and don't know exactly how closely the film sticks to it, but the general story is very well put together.
The two child actors, Asa Butterfield and Jack Scanlon, are impressive, too. At times, they are a little wooden, and they're also very British, pronouncing every consonant and vowel properly. It's quite confusing in a way, and it would have been more interesting to see a bit more of an attempt to remind us of their German nationality as opposed to having a British cast put on very British accents. Still, this is only a minor blip, and in general, the two boys are extremely convincing and perform their parts very well.
Overall, then, it's a very powerful film that should not be entered into lightly. It deals with sore subject matter for many, and is quite harrowing and shocking in parts. There are moments where you feel absolutely shocked, and others where you're shaking your head, wondering how true to real life the story is in terms of the conditions it describes. You can see the pain, suffering and dogged determination from some of the people on both sides of the fence, and it's almost like being blinkered whether you're an 8 year old boy or the man in charge. It's not easy viewing, but it is impressive, and I recommend giving it a go. Just don't expect much to laugh or smile about.
Bruno (Asa Butterfield) and his sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) are having to move to the country because their father Ralf (David Thewlis) as a German officer in a high rank has just had a promotion. They are both not impressed and moan that they will miss their friends but they are given no choice.
Once they get there Gretel soon perks up as there is a new officer that she finds she has a crush on. Bruno on the other hand hates it. With their gates being guarded by soldiers and dogs, and not being allowed in the back garden he feels even more isolated than when he was in the city. From his bedroom window he spies people but they happen to be Jews in a detention camp. Bruno doesn't really know what's going on so he thinks that they are farmers and that it is a farm.
His mother Elsa (Verma Farmiga) soon boards up the window to protect him, but he doesn't understand why. Bruno decides that he wants to make a tyre swing to entertain himself, but the tyres are in the part of the garden in which he is not allowed so he is taken there with someone. While he is in the shed he spies a window, it's a way out into the countryside and he can go and see the farm.
When his mother goes to the market he decides that he wants to explore what is through the window and wonders through fields and woods until he gets to the farm. When he gets there he is excited to see a boy Schmuel (Jack Scanlon) on the other side of the fence in the striped pyjamas and starts to form a relationship with him. We all know that this is not going to end well, especially when each one is meant to hate the other.
I really did enjoy this film, it's really heart warming and emotional but I found it very strange that it was in English. I get that it comes from a book, which is probably a book written in English but with the topic and the fact that they are meant to be a German family it would have been nice for them to be speaking in German or at least have a slight twinge of a German accent.
I loved the child innocence in this film, Bruno while speaking to the Jew who had been assigned to do the chores in his house finds out that he used to be a practising doctor, his reply being 'you can't have been that good then if you had to practise'. Also when speaking to Schmuel about him he talks about how grown ups can't make their minds up about what they want to do that Pavel used to be a doctor and now he's peeling potatoes!
I not a very emotional person when it comes to films and I'm not known to usually cry at them but this film had me in floods of tears at the end. I loved the pace of the ending, it didn't feel as though it dragged at all. I found the two young boys who played Bruno and Schmuel to be amazing actors, especially Bruno and the emotions that he was able to show in his facial expressions.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a 2008 film based on the book of the same title by John Boyne and is directed by Mark Herman.
The film goes on to show the forbidden friendship between an 8 year old German boy and a Jewish concentration camp prisoner in World War II-era Germany. The innocent son of a high-ranking Nazi commandant, Bruno has been largely shielded from the harsh realities of the war. When Bruno discovers that his father has been promoted and that their family will be moving from Berlin into the countryside, he doesn't take the news well. Increasingly bored in his sprawling yet dreary country abode and forbidden by his mother from exploring the backyard, young Bruno searches for something to do while his older sister plays with dolls and vies for the attention of a handsome Lieutenant Kotler. One day bored and gazing out his bedroom window, Bruno spies what first appears to be a nearby "farm" but his parents refuse to discuss it, and all of the inhabitants there are curiously clad in striped pajamas. But while Bruno's mother naïvely believes the "farm" to be an internment camp, her husband has sworn under oath never to reveal that it is in fact an extermination camp specifically designed to help the Nazis achieve their horrific "Final Solution." Eventually defying his mother's rules and venturing out beyond the house grounds in to the woods, Bruno arrives at a barbed wire fence to find a young boy just his age emptying rubble from a wheel barrel and the young boy is wearing striped pajamas. His name is Shmuel and before long the two young boys become fast friends. But the closer these two boys grow the more Bruno becomes awakened to the horrors unfolding all around them. His mother is catching on quickly as well, a fact that causes great tension in her marriage to Bruno's father. Later after Bruno swipes a piece of cake for Shmuel Lt. Kotler accuses the Jewish boy of stealing and delivers a swift punishment. When Bruno's father announces that the young boy and his mother will be going to live with their aunt in Heidelberg, Bruno grabs a shovel and makes his way to the camp, setting into motion a tragic and devastating sequence of events.
I had read the book before watching the film and have to admit that I did prefer the book but I do think both were lacking the emotion and intensity that usually comes with these kind of films. Usually when you watch any documentary or film that relates to WW2 and the Holocaust they give you goosebumps and really make you think about what was happening but unfortunately this didn't do that. I found that the documentary Aushwitz had more emotion and detail than this film, don't get me wrong it is worth a watch and the book is a good read but I just don't think they portray very well what the concentration camps were really like and how bad they actually were. It is a moving lovely story that will bring a tear to your eye but I do think it could have been better.
© Also published under the name dottilotti on Ciao UK 2010
What a real insightful film about the holocaust, it is so sad and I doubt it is a true story but my word it rought me to tears.
A German family the husband being an officer move from their home to a posh and huge house right by the concentration camps however the wife and two children have no idea in what activities their father and husband are involved in, it is not untill one of the other officers accidently reveals to the wife what is happening does this whole film come together. Naturally the wife is horrified and can not help but cry and feel great sadest and almost hate for her husband. Little do they know their youngest child sneaks off to the barriers of the concentration camp and meets another boy in a shriped uniform hence the tittle the little boy has lost his father and wants help to find him. The officers son agress to help him and bring the other boy food and plays with him on the other side of the gate for a while. After what seems like a great deal of time the officers son sneaks in to the camp, dresses as the other prisoners and ends up being gassed.
By the time the officer and the family realise what has happened it is all too late, neither of the boys new that death was only just around the corner.
It really draw your attension in and brings you to tears. The story is very cleverly made and very impressive.
This is a must watch film!
Director: Mark Herman
Screenplay: Mark Herman
Novel: John Boyne
Genre: War - Drama
Asa Butterfield [Bruno]
Jack Scanlon [Shmuel]
David Thewlis [Ralf - Bruno's father]
Vera Farmiga [Elsa - Bruno's mother]
Amber Beattie [Gretel - Bruno's sister]
Sweetly innocent Bruno, the 8-year-old son of a high-ranking German soldier, and a protective and caring mother who supports her husband in his endeavours, is devastated when he discovers that the family will be moving to the countryside following his father's promotion.
Hurt and upset by the move, Bruno says a final goodbye to his friends and resigns himself to life in the country. Unlike his 12-year-old sister, Gretel, who, upon arrival, immediately falls in love with her father's young and handsome adjutant, Lieutenant Kotler, and in so doing finds it easier to accept her new life in the country, Bruno fails to make any friends because there are no other children in the area... which makes no difference anyways because he isn't allowed to leave the small 'compound' that surrounds the house and is guarded by soldiers and trained guard dogs.
One day, staring out his bedroom window, he spies what he thinks is a farm through the trees... a strange farm that is surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and where the people on the farm walk around in striped pyjamas.
Not knowing what to make of this strange farm and the people within, Bruno confides in his mother who immediately takes steps to make certain that his life remains unmarred by the depravities of war. She has his bedroom window boarded up, and becomes extremely protective of him, watching him like a hawk. Unfortunately for her, Bruno notices that the elderly servant, Pavel, who peels potatoes in the kitchen, is wearing a striped blue pyjama beneath his trousers, and he becomes all the more curious. He can't quite understand what it all means.
When Bruno falls from his swing and hurts himself, Pavel quickly rushes to his aid, and Bruno, whose mother has left the compound in order to go shopping, takes the opportunity to speak to the elderly servant... which serves to confuse him all the more when he discovers that Pavel was once a doctor. Bruno can't understand why the man would rather be a servant peeling potatoes than a doctor. When Bruno asks Pavel for an explanation, he is all the more confused by the tears he glimpses in the man's eyes, and before Pavel can explain, Bruno's mother enters the kitchen.
As the days go by in an endless and dreary haze of nothingness, Bruno, who has absolutely no one to play with and is bored out of his mind in his home that is more a prison... decides to explore his surroundings.
Finding a way out of the compound unnoticed, Bruno is ecstatic. He makes his way through the forest, towards the farm with the barbed wire fence. Arriving at the farm, he spies a boy sitting quietly behind a pile of rubbish [between the rubbish and the fence], and calls out to him.
Startled, the young boy on the other side of the fence looks nervously back over his shoulder before responding to Bruno's friendly conversation - and that is where the story truly begins...
Bruno [Asa Butterfield], is, without a doubt, the unsung hero in this movie... he is everything that is right in the world - sweet, innocent, kind, gentle - he is the voice of reason before it has been stripped of its humanity. His wide blue eyes look upon a world that is corrupt and vile, and he manages, regardless of human depravity, to see the goodness within, and to ask the questions that none other dare ask. He is confused by the farm with the barbed wire fence, the people who walk around in pyjamas, the servant in the kitchen who used to be a doctor but now peels potatoes... the boy in the striped pyjamas who says that the soldiers took his clothes. Bruno asks the questions no mother could possibly answer...
Shmuel [Jack Scanlon], is the boy in the striped pyjamas. He is the one who, although only 8-years-old, will attempt to help Bruno understand what's going on, although he isn't quite sure himself what it's all about. All he knows is that his clothes were taken away, that he is slowly being starved, and that people are constantly being taken away, never to be seen again. He doesn't like the soldiers - they frighten him. Making matters worse, his father has just disappeared, and Shmuel is all alone in a cruel world surrounded by barbed wire fence.
Ralf [David Thewlis], is Bruno's father - commandant of the Nazi concentration camp that Bruno mistakes for a 'farm'. Although the name of the camp is never spoken, the presence of a crematoria with a gigantic chimney spewing foul-smelling black smoke brings to mind Auschwitz... in the book, Bruno, who can't pronounce the name correctly, calls it 'Out-With'. Ralf, who appears to be a semi-decent sort, although his own mother dislikes him and his father is wary of him [no doubt suspecting his son capable of reporting him to the authorities if he dares to voice his objections about the war and Hitler], is a family man who does love his wife and children, but is ruled more by his ambitions than by his heart... which explains why he lies to his wife about the camp, and insists that his family accompany him.
Elsa [Vera Farmiga], is Bruno's tormented mother. When she discovers that the 'farm' isn't really a labour camp, she is devastated. Her horror at the discovery is evident when her husband finally admits the truth, and she realises what is being burned in the crematoria. Ralf attempts to justify the situation [and his part in it] by telling her; "I'm a soldier. Soldiers fight a war." Elsa replies; "That's not war!" Ralf insists; "It's a vital part of it!" Disillusioned by her husband's dastardly and despicable role in the war effort, Elsa's life becomes a hellish nightmare.
Gretel [Amber Beattie], is an impressionable teenager with a crush on an older man whose infatuation causes her to become a Nazi militant. Her young and handsome lieutenant can do no wrong, nor can her father for that matter... Gretel cannot see anything wrong in vilifying the Jews when Bruno comes to her for comfort. She is neither a kind person nor an evil person, she is an immature 12-year-old who still has a lot of growing up to do.
Although the storyline is very much centred around a WWII German concentration camp, it is young Bruno's feelings and emotions that are focused upon. Much like Anne in 'The Diary of Anne Frank', the true story of a Jewish girl who kept a diary of her life during the war as she and her family hid from the Germans, 'The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas' focuses on the innocence of youth.
Bruno, on the other side of the fence [being German] is very much like Anne Frank was in his attempt to understand what is going on around him, while focusing mainly on his own private little world and his need for friendship... Anne Frank was much the same, focusing on her own world as the war raged outside, yet never quite managing to keep the horrors of the outside world from intruding.
World War II - concentration camp... possibly Auschwitz.
COMMENTS - OPINION:
I had read tons of reviews on the book - 'The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas'- but never actually got the chance to read it... therefore, when I was loaned a copy of the movie yesterday, I was delighted.
Unfortunately, although feedback on the book raved about the intensity and emotional strength imbued within its pages, and the movie's feedback was much the same, I found the movie somewhat lacking in intensity, and although the emotional baggage from the book has managed to make its way across to the movie, it felt more like a BBC drama that has been made for television.
The acting, for the most part, is quite good... Bruno is such a sweet boy with his wide, questioning blue eyes, his innocence - Asa Butterfield is an extremely talented young actor, much like Jack Scanlon who plays Shmuel, the boy in the striped pyjamas. These two youths managed to give a highly credible performance, and although Vera Farmiga's performance was just as wonderful, and intense... the lack of emotion from the other actors put a damper on everything.
Ralf [David Thewlis], was never quite evil enough, and because his goodness was arguable, he came across as somewhat underdeveloped. He wasn't all that believable, and I felt that this movie 'needed' a dastardly character, a character I would love to hate. Lieutenant Kotler, played by Rupert Friend, was a thoroughly despicable character, however, he didn't stick around long enough to get me going!
'The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas' is an incredibly thought-provoking movie, much along the lines of 'Schindler's List' and 'The Diary of Anne Frank', however, it is not as emotionally intense. Although the movie managed to hold my attention and squeeze a few tears out of me, there was not the emotional 'drainage' you would usually expect from this type of film.
If you have read the book you will not be dissappointed with the movie. This movie is literally the book on screen, there is no added or deleted seens and it does the book complete justice. Its obvious they wanted to stay as true to the book as possible.
Bruno is cast wonderfully and everything I imagines him to be. The film graphically shows the poor state the Jews were in on the other side of the fence (I don't want to tell you the whole plot). It also depicts Brunos innocence and naivety to what the Nazi's were doing brilliantly.
Just like the book I feel that the movie could have develled into the camp a little more and given a bit more in dept knowledge about what was actually going on inside the camp as all you really witnesses was the tragic end and a little boy skipping work duties.
The boy in the stripes pyjamas is a film I saw about a year ago now after someone lent me the DVD, I wasn't sure about it at first, it didn't seem something I would usually watch however I had been told that it was a good film and I would enjoy it so I thought id give it a go.
The story of this movie is told through the eyes of a young boy, Bruno. He is 8 years old, and belongs to a rich family who have just moved house. The film is set in world war 2 Germany, and the boys father is the commandant of Germanys SS force. However Bruno is kept very isolated from what's going on in the real world and doesn't really know the extent of his fathers job or why they moved, the real reason being he has been asked to take control of a concentration camp near by.
Bruno does manage to leave the confines of his garden though when not being watched and manages to meet another young boy, who unknown to him is actually a Jew inside the camp, where the Jews are waiting extermination.
The film has some twists and turns, especially at the end, but I just really like the story. The audience throughout know about this concentration camp, and there are clues all the way throughout like the boy asking why the sky is always dusty and there's always a bad smell, however the innocence of the young boy means he never realises the truth of this camp, and what going on.
The film enticed me all the way through, and although it is short and I didn't want it to quite end yet, I did really enjoy it and would watch it again. Its got great acting, and although they are a German family, the film has been made for a western audience, so therefore the actors are all English, which I guess is good as at least you don't have to read subtitles, but perhaps that part of the film could be more authentic.
Apparently, the US military won't let movie studios use their hardware and troops unless they get to see the script of the film first. If they think the film doesn't show the US military in a good light, politically or factually, the director doesn't get to use the kit, simple as. Needless to say there's a big business in fake military hardware in Hollywood. There is this same kind of concession with holocaust movies in Hollywood in that the Jewish led and saturated movie business is determined to keep the memories fresh of the holocaust by producing and promoting at least one film a year on it come award season. I can't remember a year when we didn't have a Holocaust film sniffing the big awards, this and The Reader going head to head for the nomination list last season. I really do think there's an understanding in Hollywood that if you make a good holocaust film you will get an edge in the awards. It was our Kate, of course, who quipped on Ricky Gervais`s brilliant 'Extras' TV series that if you want an Oscar then 'play a mental or do a holocaust movie', prophetic indeed as Kate did indeed win the Oscar for her holocaust movie whilst the superior Boy in the Striped Pyjamas didn't even earn a single nomination.
Asa Butterfield ... Bruno
Zac Mattoon O'Brien ... Leon
David Hayman ... Pavel - Jewish servant
Jim Norton ... Herr Liszt
Jack Scanlon ... Shmuel
David Thewlis ... Father
Vera Farmiga ... Mother
Iván Verebély ... Meinberg
Béla Fesztbaum ... Schultz
Cara Horgan ... Maria
Amber Beattie ... Gretel
Richard Johnson ... Grandpa
Sheila Hancock ... Grandma
The war has reached Berlin and young Bruno (Asa Butterfield) and his older sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) are to relocate to the occupied Polish countryside to avoid the allied blitz, mother (Vera Farmiga) having to leave behind the capitals glamorous social scene and trappings of a high ranking officer for a more rural existence until the war is won. Head of the family (David Thewlis) is the Nazi officer who has been assigned the task to set up the very first work camp in Poland (believed to be Auschwitz but not named as in the film) to 'process' the first batch of Jews.
Whilst young Gretel is a model Arian and taking in the Reich propaganda being fed to the children with their home schooling, Bruno is soon bored in their isolated location and ready to explore, quickly befriending Pavel (David Hayman), a dishevelled Jewish servant from the farm (the camp), as the camp in known, who brings vegetables from the farm to the house, but woe betide anyone who talks with him. Bruno is banned from leaving the grounds because the death camp is near by, the smoke coming from the chimneys grabbing his curiosity.
He is soon over the garden wall, through the woods and sitting by the electric fence, where he meets young Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a shaven headed skinny lad also coming to terms with the camp. Bruno is innocent to it all as their friendship grows and soon bringing food to do the boy. Mother too is strangely vague on what the farm is for whilst Gretel has a crush on the handsome but cruel Jew hating young sergeant Schultz (Béla Fesztbaum), posted at their house. As it becomes clear to most in the family what the camps are really for the tension grows between the parents, Bruno's increasing disappearances adding to the tension. He still thinks the camp is playground for Shrum and an electric fence is no barrier to kid's when they want to play.
As these movies are constant there needs to be originality on show, where this one trumps most. As far as holocaust movies goes this one is somewhat unconventional in its approach, more about the barriers that divide and create prejudice in life in general than the daily grind of the concentration camps, the hatred for the Jews, as it is in places like N.Ireland and Palestine, created by people who have a vested interest in that continuing rather than basing it on any sort of genuine hate.
History tells us that once the German people accepted the Jews were somehow the bad guys they actively took part in the genocide, if just by their inaction to stop it. There are documented accounts of the SS asking German and occupied Eastern European citizens to round up the Jews in their towns and villages and 'help' them on their way to the death camps, neighbours no longer friends, and in some cases kill them there and then, even talk about it over the evening meal as it became routine. If Brits were told they could kill someone purely because of their religion some probably would, as they did in N.Ireland. The human being is capable of anything and when someone in authority says it ok it begins, one of the many interesting themes to this. We stood by and allowed Rwanda and Sudan to commit genocide and will again.
This film is frightfully English though with not a sub-title to be seen, lots of clipped middle England accents for the German officers and staff, including an excellent performance by David Thewlis. It's just as much a film about barriers like class and race a sit is hate, the electric fence not the only thing that divides the two boys. Young Jack Scanlon who plays Schmuel and Asa Butterfield as Bruno are superb in expressing that innocence and vulnerability of a child learning the world and what horrors await, they but two young boys defined by their parents.
The ending here is truly harrowing as is the tension leading up to that point and even the most hardened film fans will feel their nerve endings tingle at what is about to happen once the threshold has been passed. I put my hand over my eyes. Its just one of those films that builds and builds to an ending you dont pick up on until that moment. The film is worth watching just for that powerful moment in cinema alone. Its also interesting seeing a very English film being made about something very German. This kind of genocide event could and will happen again in Europe and this film captures the lengths adults will go to block things out of their minds when those things are too terrible to contemplate. It still astounds me to this day that Western Europe collectively stood back and allowed the Holocaust to happen and maybe we do need a film every year to remind us of that historical guilt.
= = = = = Special Features = = = = =
Mark Harmon talks about his movie.
-Friendship behind the Fence-
The cast & crew talk about the film - at its Hungarian locations.
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Imdb.com scores it 7.8 out of 8.0 (16,522 votes)
RuN-TiMe 106 minutes
Any two films for two nights for £5 at Blockies
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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a British film released in 2008, directed by Mark Herman and produced by David Heyman. It is based on the book by John Boyne. The film follows an eight year old boy called Bruno whose father is a high ranking SS Officer, but after his father is given a new post next to an extermination camp, Bruno's life is never the same.
When he reaches his new home he chooses his room and looks out of the window and thinks that there is a farm beyond the trees. When he asks his mother about this she immediately changes the subject. As he leaves the kitchen he notices a middle aged man, dressed in dirty pyjamas, bent forward, peeling potatoes. He is told that this is a servant but he is not convinced. The house he has moved is in the countryside, so he has no one to play with, besides his sister, who seems more interested in a german soldier.
Bruno ventures into the back garden but his mother tells him that it is out of bounds. The next day, his mother ventures into town and Bruno is left on his own. He decides to head into the back garden and he comes to a shed with an open. Due to his size he is able to get through the window and begin an adventure through the forest, playing a game he used to play with his friends in Berlin. He reaches an electrified fence and noticed a boy of the same age, also wearing blue striped pyjamas.
The boy is called Shmuel and tells Bruno that he is a jew and has been imprisoned here by soldiers who took away their belongings and clothes and replaced them with striped pyjamas. Despite Bruno telling Shmuel that his father was a good soldier and not the type that would imprison jewish people. His views are split when he returns home and peers in on a meeting taking place between his father and several German soldiers , a propaganda film is being shown making the camp look like the ideal get away.
Meanwhile his father hires a tutor for Bruno and his sister Gretel who tries to convince them that Nazi way of treating the jews was the correct way.
Elsewhere, Elsa, their mother notices a strange odour outisde, with a grin Lieutenant Kotler says "they smell even worse when they burn. Up until then, Elsa thought the camp was a concentration camp, not a extermination camp. Elsa heads into the house and demands that they all move back to Berlin or even just away from here.
A few days later Bruno notices, Shmuel in the dining room polishing wine goblets, when asked, he told Bruno that they needed someone with small hands. Bruno offers him a cake and hastily he stuffs it into his mouth. Suddenly Kotler enters and catches Shmuel eating and talking. Sadly Bruno says that he came in and Shmuel was helping himself to cakes and that he has never seen the boy before. Kotler tells Shmuel to finish up and that he will speak to Shmuel later.
After a few days Shmuel is in his usual place next to the pile of cement, as he looks up Bruno notices that Shmuel has been beaten badly. Soon they become friends again and their strong friendship continues. Kotler is moved to the front for not telling his superiors about his father's opposition to the Nazi regime.
After an argument between Ralf and Elsa, it is decided that Elsa, Bruno and Gretel will return to Berlin, although Bruno says he wishes to stay, his mother tells him thatr it has been decided that they will leave the next again day. When Bruno tells Shmuel the news, it seems that Shmuel also has bad news, his father has disappeared.
Bruno tells Shmuel that he will come the next day and help Shmuel look for his father, in return Shmuel will bring Bruno a set of blue striped pyjamas. As planned they meet the next day and make their way into the camp...
I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would recommend to people that enjoy stories based around the Second World War. Unusually it is very like the book and it included the points I remembered from the novel.