The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)


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

— Bruno

Everyone knows about my hang up with Holocaust movies. I think that they are done to death. No pun intended. Every year, there has to be a dozen movies about the Holocaust trying to grab an Oscar. Everyone knows that’s true. I put my feelings aside to watch writer/director Mark Herman’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Actually, this particular movie was playing at my local Landmark Theatre alongside Milk and I’ve Loved You So Long. I was standing in line to purchase my matinee ticket to Milk.  Two older gentlemen  standing behind me were also in line for the same movie. They looked at the start times and one of them talked about this movie about it was good with a sad ending. That revelation kinda spoiled the ending for me. Somewhat.

Based on the 2006 novel of the same name by John Boyne, the movie focuses on an innocent eight-year-old boy, Bruno (Asa Butterfield) that is uprooted from his life in WWII Berlin to a home in the countryside.

His father, Rafe (David Thewlis) is a SS officer that is transferred to a post in Auchwitz. Elsa (Vera Farmiga) knows that he is an officer, but she doesn’t know the extent of his duties. There are SS officers all around the house. Being so young Bruno doesn’t know what is going on around him.

Bruno is bored with the country life. One day, he sees a man in striped pajamas working around the house, Pavel (David Hayman). Bruno asks him why he is peeling potatoes. A former doctor, he helps bandage Bruno after he falls out of a makeshift swing. His family doesn’t want Bruno to associate with anyone in striped clothes, but they don’t tell him why.

His father wants Bruno and his older sister, Gretel (Amber Beattie) to have an education. The tutor, Herr Liszt (Jim Norton) comes and teaches the children Nazi propaganda. Bruno doesn’t understand what he is being taught, but Gretel takes to the lessons to transform into a Nazi sympathizer. Elsa doesn’t want her children to be taught like that.

Going into the woods in the back of the house, Bruno sees a concentration camp in the distance that he thinks is a farm with weird people in the same striped pajamas. He befriends another eight year old boy that sits alone by the electrified fence, Shmuel (Jack Scanlon). They becomes instant friends.

Every day that Bruno talks to Shmuel, he realizes some of what is happening to the people in “the farm.” He sneaks food out of the house to give to Shmuel to eat.

I was feeling lukewarm with the movie until there is a scene at the dinner table that turned the entire movie on its head. I knew that the sad ending was going to happen, but I had no idea of the magnitude it would affect me.

I have implore that Vera Farmiga is vastly underrated as an actress. She gives Oscar caliber work every movie that she is in. She was terrific as a glamourous Berlin socialite, a concerned mother and total basketcase. Wonderful work.

Lastly, I have a problem that a prisoner could walk up to the fence and now get shot. From what I heard when that couple on Oprah that met at a concentration camp would not happen, because anybody going up to the fence will be shot on sight.

Judgment: If you are looking for a movie that wasn’t made for Oscars, I would suggest this movie to you.

Rating: ****


About Branden

Branden: I am just your average movie nut that reviews films. Gives his take on pop culture and Hollywood happenings. Dreams to have his own thriving website and make a living doing what he is passionate about.

Posted on May 7, 2009, in 2008, Crime, Drama, Holocaust, Nazi and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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