Film: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas


Cast includes: Asa Butterfield (Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), David Thewlis (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Rupert Friend (The Young Victoria)
Directon/screenplay: Mark Herman (Little Voice)
Genre: WWII drama (2008)

In brief: Eight-year-old Bruno really doesn’t want to move from Berlin. But his Nazi officer father has a very important new job in Poland. While Bruno is the youngest and (in theory) the most naïve family member, Bruno is the one whose gut tells him that this isn’t a good move. But of course they do move, leaving their gracious Berlin home, moving to a large austere house in the Polish countryside. And all the Nazi officers regularly meeting at the house don’t help in making it feel like the fun place that was promised. The only glimmer of hope for fun is the “farm” Bruno sees in the distance from one of the windows. But “why do the farmers wear pajamas?” Bruno asks. He never does get a satisfactory answer.

Although Bruno isn’t allowed to explore the back yard, he finds a way. The woods are magical, and Bruno runs along until he finally comes to the farm. It really is a strange farm, with a high barbed wire fence and rows of huts. The young boy on the other side of the fence is the first child his own age Bruno’s seen since the family arrived. So naturally Bruno hopes he’s found a friend. But young Shmuel is mysterious. It won’t be easy to understand why Shmuel is always hungry, why he doesn’t play and why he always wears pajamas with a number on the front. While learning about the world from what he sees at the farm, Bruno’s tutor tells him “it’s time to turn your mind to the real world.” Bruno learns how the Jews were the reason they lost the Great War… “They’re not really people, at all.” But Bruno thinks there must be some nice Jews. “If you ever find such a thing as a nice Jew, you’d be the world’s greatest explorer,” his tutor tells him.

Reality isn’t a strong suit of this movie, but it’s told through the eyes of an 8-year-old. Much of the story feels rather like a fairytale… complete with British accents. It’s a “cleaned up” holocaust… which is always a point of controversy. But if you can accept the unreality of it, the story pulls you in. As Bruno gets closer and closer to the truth, we want to warn this innocent boy. Where will his explorations take him? There aren’t a lot of good places for this tale to go.

popcorn rating

1 popped kernels

Popped kernels for production values. Unpopped kernels for being so unreal... while trying to look real.

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