on March 11, 2009
2008 was a very big year for films adapted from books, with several reaching the high acclaim of Academy Award nominations. One adapted film that didn't get much recognition, however, is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, based on the novel by John Boyne.
The film opens with the following quote emblazoned on the screen: "Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows." As the quote suggests, this is a sort of coming of age film, and over the course of 94 minutes,those in the audience slowly watch the innocence of children unravel before their eyes as the reality of what is taking place becomes more and more illuminated.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is the story of a family living in Berlin during World War II. The main character, an eight-year-old boy named Bruno (Asa Butterfield), spends his time in Berlin playing with his friends and reading adventure novels. His father, brilliantly played by David Thewlis (most will recognize him as Professor Lupin from the Harry Potter franchise), soon gets a promotion, however, and Bruno, his parents, and his sister move to the German countryside where his father will take up his new position. Unlike their time in Berlin, Bruno's parents are careful to keep their son close to home, and Bruno, an explorer and adventurer at heart, is confined to the small fenced area surrounding their house.
From his bedroom window, Bruno can see what he thinks is a strange farm off in the distance. He notices that the "farmers" act strangely and wear strange "pajamas" while they work. Later, he notices that the smokestacks on the farm give off an absolutely wretched stench when they are burning. By now, of course, the audience knows that what Bruno has seen is not a farm at all, and that his father's new position is Commandant of the nearby concentration camp.
The naive Bruno manages to escape from the grounds of his home and is finally free to explore the woods behind the house. Not paying much attention to where he is going, he happens upon a remote part of the camp where he meets another eight-year-old boy, Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), confined by a different kind of fence. The two become friends, and Bruno sneaks away every chance he gets to go and visit the only playmate he has found since moving away from Berlin.
This is an interesting film on many accounts, the most fascinating being the changes that each member of Bruno's family undergoes. His father, a seemingly reluctant, "political only" Nazi at the beginning, devolves into a hardened, harsh man. Bruno's sister Gretel (Amber Beattie), encouraged by a handsome lieutenant working with her father, falls victim to the Aryan propaganda so much that her room is soon filled with posters of the Fuhrer, much like young girls today would adorn their walls with images of the Jonas Brothers. Finally, there's Bruno's mother (Vera Farmiga), who is the antithesis to the growing Nazism in her family. At first she is happy for her husband and the success he has as a soldier in the German army. However, as she learns more about her husband's new charge, and the truth is revealed about the camp, she becomes bitter and angry.
And then there's Bruno. All the signs are there. Bruno comes across every hint he possibly could as to the truth behind the "farm" where his friend Shmuel lives and works. Yet he remains utterly oblivious. Caught between the two stages of "sounds and smells and sights" and "the dark hour of reason," the filmmakers show the great price of failing to deal with the world around us.
Much of the criticism that I've read regarding this film deals with the supposed overextension of innocence to both child characters. Many critics cannot grasp the idea of an eight-year-old child not understanding that the "farm" is really a horrible work camp, that the "pajamas" are prison clothes, that the mysterious disappearances that Shmuel tells of and the smoke from the chimneys are the results of the systematic slaughter of the camp's inhabitants. That may be a fair criticism, but I think it misses the greater point that the filmmakers seem to be making.
Bigger than a child's loss of innocence, Bruno seems to be a representation of Germany, perhaps even humanity, itself, and the failure to deal with the evil right before one's very eyes. So many Germans claimed the innocence that we see in Bruno, saying they had no knowledge of the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem that Hitler and his SS were carrying out across the European continent. Even today, despite all the existing evidence, there are still those that deny the Holocaust happened, not wanting to acknowledge the great evil of which humanity, perhaps even their neighbors and family members, is capable. More than anything else, this film shows the great price humanity pays for such utter naivete.
All in all, this is a very well done film. The story, though slow in the beginning, is engaging, thought-provoking, and, in the end, heart-wrenching. It is well-acted, especially in the performances of the young boys, and the bright colors and airy score provide a sort of bizarre juxtaposition to what is happening on screen.
The DVD includes the typical bonus features of deleted scenes and a feature-length commentary, as well as a featurette entitled "Friendship Beyond the Fence."
on February 6, 2009
After I read the novel by John Boyne and heard the news that a movie adaption was currently in theatres, I was slightly scared that the film would be too extreme and dramatic for me, because I don't do well at all with films that scare me or make me sad- and thinking about the plot of the book, I knew watching a movie version would tear me to pieces.
But, as it happened, my school went on a field trip to see the movie a few weeks after I finished the book, and I ended up having to watch the whole movie through and write a report comparing and contrasting it from the novel. And guess what?- I sobbed like a baby in front of all my friends.
Although the last parts of the movie are very sad and deeply patronizing, it is overall a very good adaption of the book that caused so much controversy among young readers like me(I'm 15 by the way).
on September 17, 2011
By Darrell Stoddard, email@example.com
This emotionally wrenching film deserves 10 Stars. Changed my life forever and a major part of my life was spent in motion pictures. The movie will change your life everlastingly too if you open your heart to a simple fictional story of a little German boy who befriends a Jewish boy through the barbed wire fence of a concentration camp.
My heart was ripped out, but I will be a more loving, gracious, forgiving person for having seen this sensitive and also horrifying motion picture. YES, as the reviewers have said: It is "historically inaccurate to the extreme." "It is total fiction." It is "ridiculously contrived." It is "all too absurd." It is "hard to swallow." It is "forced and artificial," and "The actors have British accents instead of German."
One critic posed the question, "Did Bruno's father in the end get what he deserved?" Such moralizing and such criticisms of the film make me wonder if those viewers of the film missed the unanswered questions of the Holocaust. How could it happen? How could so many good people allow it to happen?
The most insightful reviewer said, "What is appalling to me is reading all of the one-star reviews. I now see how the holocaust (shoah) could have taken place. All that is necessary is for a nation to be composed of and ruled by people with no feelings, bereft of human compassion and sensitivity, just like several of the reviewers here."
Great Art (even fiction) reveals to us "things as they really are". Through Bruno and his mother, we see through the eyes of Germans who were totally innocent until they came face to face with with the horrors of the "final solution." Most Europeans accepted the deportation of Jews, some not knowing what would be their fate and others even accepting the fate of Jews because it was so easy to blame Jewish Merchants and Jewish Bankers for World War 1 and for the collapse of the German economy. Savings were totally wiped out. It took 22 million German Marks to buy a loaf of bread. Though not the same, we can understand today how easy it would be to blame all Muslims for 9/11.
Through Bruno's sister we see how easy it was to indoctrinate an entire nation of German youth. A notable exception was the 17 year old Mormon boy, Helmuth Hubener, that resisted the 3rd Reich and was sentenced by a German Court for treason and beheaded by guillotine on October 27, 1942 at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. (See his true story on Wikipedia!)
In this motion picture we see and learn how good men, good fathers, and good soldiers, putting military obedience ahead of even their mothers, wives and children, directed and became the executioners of millions of Jews. Even still photos of all the corpses, and eye witness accounts of the Holocaust do not give us that understanding.
Last, by identifying and seeing through the eyes of an innocent child, we learn from the film what it was like to be ordered into the gas chambers. No other motion picture, book, or document has ever, or ever will, capture that experience or the depth of those feelings like the film "Boy in the Stripped Pajamas."
Would that each viewer could become as a little child (Matthew 18:3), like Bruno, not judgmental, and not critical. The Holocaust (like the film) is hard to believe but the gas chambers to kill and the ovens to burn bodies were real. I've seen them with my own eyes. I've been in the house made sacred by Anne Frank. My next door neighbor was one of the first U.S. soldiers into the Dachau Prison Camp, and my neighbor across the street served in the Danish Underground.
Let us resolve, NEVER AGAIN, not just in five languages, but in all the languages of the world. There were those in Germany that truly did not know what was happening to the Jews, but no other film answers for me how an entire nation could be led by one man to kill, or accept the killing, of so many. I will be forever haunted by the words, "If he had been your Fuehrer, you would have followed him too." Although it is fiction, "Boy In the Striped Pajamas" reveals not the historical truth, but the TRUTH of Nazi Germany as it was.
FOOTNOTE: What follows regarding man's inhumanity to man is presented because HISTORY WILL REPEAT ITSELF IF WE DO NOT KNOW AND UNDERSTAND IT!
People today need to know that Hitler did not invent anti-semitism. It began with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and has never ceased. It is mind boggling to learn that throughout history there have been innumerable and hundreds of attempts in many countries to kill all of the Jews. (See "Pogroms" on Google, then read the Wikipedia account.)
I was shocked beyond belief to read Martin Luther's anti Jewish sentiments published in 1543 (See "On the Jews and Their Lies - Wikipedia" Luther's feelings about the Jews and what should be done to them were as vile and reprehensible, as any words spoken in Nazi Germany. Indeed, Luther's document may have been the blueprint for the Nazi Holocaust.
Seeing history repeat itself so many times makes us wonder if there is hope to save the Jews and the world from so much hate and killing. Pope John VI in 1965 issued his historic "Nostra Aetate" that expresses understanding, forgiveness and love for the Jews and for all religions. Pope John Paul VI states in this history changing document that the death of Christ, "cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today." The age old doctrine behind all of the Pogroms which stated that "all Jews, past, present, and future were collectively guilty of the Crucifixion of Jesus," was officially revoked by a Catholic Pope! EVERYONE should read entirely the "Nostra Aetate" which is one of the most important documents in the history of mankind (It takes just a few minutes to read and can be found on Google)! The current Pope Benedict XVI who was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a child in Nazi Germany (in two books) has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ. There is hope for the world! These are history changing actions by two Catholic Popes. It would be well for everyone who wants the world to be a better place to thank Catholics for Pope John VI and Pope Benedict XVI.
We must be ever vigilant against condemning another. "Therefore thou art inexcusable, Oh man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself: for thou that judgest doest the same things." (Romans 2:1). Jews who migrated to Israel after World War 11, themselves committed a Holocaust of the Palestinian people. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were killed and nearly one million were forced into refugee camps. "This is my Land. God gave this Land to me," was not justification for killing the Palestinians!
There is one notable voice in the Middle East that documents the atrocities by all three sides and seeks to reconcile Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Melkite Christian Priest has established a school in Ibillon near Galilee where Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Druze study side by side. More important than their secular studies, students learn to love their enemies. To bring peace to the Holy Land, Elias Chacour's book "BLOOD BROTHERS" SHOULD BE REQUIRED READING FOR EVERYONE.
Two unsung and less known heroes of the Holocaust are Irena Sendler and Raoul Wallenberg. Their stories should be told along with the stories of Oskar Schindler, Corrie Ten Boom, and Anne Frank. Irena Sendler was a Polish Catholic Social worker who saved more than 2500 Jewish Children from the Warsaw Ghetto. If you have any interest in the Holocaust, YOU MUST READ the inspiring story "Life in A Jar - The Irena Sendler Story" on Google. In 2007 when Sendler was still alive, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Al Gore received the prize that year instead.
Raoul Wallenberg is credited with saving near 100,000 Hungarian Jews. At the peril of his life he defied the Nazis innumerable times. Read a summary of Wallenberg's unbelievable courage to save Hungarian Jews on Google: "Profile of a Leader: The Wallenberg Effect." See Wallenberg's complete story in the book "Righteous Gentile" available used from amazon.com from a number of book dealers for one cent plus $3.99 for shipping and handling. EVERY reviewer gave the book 5 stars! Unlike Schindler, Wallenberg had only his humanity and no ulterior motive in saving Jews; and he probably saved more Jews than Schindler.
Few Motion pictures can compare to the book. The motion picture "Wallenberg A Hero's Story" is even equal to the book "Righteous Gentile"! Both the book and the movie will lift your very being to heaven. Man at his best is so good, so noble, so Christlike, that we would fain throw a cover over men and women when they are less. Mankind needs Hero's like Wallenberg to lift and redeem us. It will make anyone a better person to make the book or the motion picture a part of their life.
See all of my Reviews. I write only about books, events, or motion pictures that have changed the course of history or unforgettable books or motion pictures that will totally change peoples lives.
Darrell Stoddard, Founder - Pain Research Institute and saveusa.biz
on August 20, 2009
I knew I would hate THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS - but I knew I had to see it. I finally did. I sat on the edge of a chair for the entire viewing and shivered at what has happened and what could so easily happen again. I remember seeing SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993), walking out saying to my husband, "We must see that all of our grandchildren have a copy of this before we die."
Somehow you don't want to remember these things that must never be forgotten!
At the end of THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS, I did not speak and could not think. It took perhaps 48 hours before I could "begin" to think clearly. I cannot tell you the end - it would be wrong - but you must see it. And, right after I purchase SCHINDLER'S LIST for all 15 of our grandchildren, I will need to purchase another 15 copies of THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS.
Saint Ambrose of Milan once said: "Not only for every idle word, but for every idle silence shall we be called to account." These two movies mentioned here need to be in every library known to man. Don't miss seeing THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS and know it could be your son, your grandson or your great grandson.
on February 16, 2009
I know that many movie critics bombed this movie, but you really need to decide for yourself.
I thought this movie was very well made, the acting was excellent, and the story was very intriguing. I have read the book the movie is based from, and the movie follows the book very closely.
I have to say my favorite part of the movie is the music - the soundtrack is amazing! It was made by the same composer that did the soundtrack for Titanic and Braveheart, to name a few.
Be prepared for a shocking ending - some don't like it, but I did. I think it's a realistic approach to the Holocaust - not every story has a happy ending.
on July 6, 2009
Not the movie, it is a beautiful work of gut-wrenching horror. I wept like a baby and I am a 62 year-old man. What is appalling to me is reading all of the one-star reviews. I now see how the holocaust (shoah) could have taken place, all that is necessary is for a nation to be composed of and ruled by people with no feelings, bereft of human compassion and sensitivity, just like several of the reviewers here.
on November 20, 2008
What did the Holocaust look like through the eyes of Jewish children consigned to the concentration camps? Or through the eyes of an entirely normal Nazi family whose father was "promoted" from Berlin to Commandant of a death camp in the countryside? Bruno is only eight years old, so he's naturally curious about the "farm" only a few hundred yards from his family mansion, where people wear striped pajamas with numbers on them. Where black smoke billows from chimneys, and where horrid smells fill the air. And if Pavel was a doctor, why is he now wearing those pajamas and peeling potatoes for his family? Bruno forms an unlikely friendship through the electric barbed wire with another eight-year-old, Shmuel. The innocence that they share puts into bold relief the horrendous consequences of the Holocaust -- for the Jews, of course, but in unlikely and catastrophic ways for every member of this prim, proper, and patriotic family whose father was responsible for "making the world better." The film explores a horrible paradox of the Holocaust -- that an evil of unimaginable magnitude was carried out by everyday people just like us.
This film probably didn't do as well at the box office because most moviegoers go for fun, not to get depressed. It's films like this that are best experienced at home. And it's a film that is an excellent jumping-off point for discussion with young (10 and above, though the two boys whom the film revolves around are only 9) children about the holocaust - which, all too often, seems to be losing its place in history.
I won't go into the detail of the plot as that is covered elsewhere on the Amazon site - and in other reviews. It is also important NOT to know how THIS story ends. (We all know how the holocaust ended.) It gives the film its impact.
In the standard "Making of" documentary (20 minutes) in the Special Features, we learn from both the Writer/Director, and the author of the book on which the film is based, that they want the film to be watched by families together and used as a discussion tool. The film is rated PG-13 "for Thematic Material involving the Holocaust". There is violence in the images of injured people (and the makeup is very graphic) but much is implied. We learn what is going on in the "work camp" by seeing fleeting images or hearing sounds.
At 94 minutes, the film is brief enough so that children will not get bored. It is NOT a film that, in my opinion, should be watched by children under 16 without a parent or other adult to answer questions they might have, or better yet, ask questions of the children to see that they understand.
Miramax made the production in partnership with BBC Films and nearly all the cast are British. (We learn in the documentary that that the woman playing the mother seems to be the sole American among the lead actors.) I did have a small problem at the beginning getting used to the British accents of all these characters who are supposed to be in Germany. (I guess I'm used to actors having German accents in films about the Holocaust.) But, after a while, I accepted it and moved on.
I have not listened to the director's commentary. And the deleted scenes included in the bonus features don't add much, but it's good they are included.
This is not a perfect film but well worth using as a teaching tool. The more that the younger generation knows about the Holocaust the better the chance that it will never be repeated.
on January 19, 2009
The movie's subject matter, first and foremost is very HEAVY.
The story follows a boy in a particular German military family. He is your average adventurous and innocent/ naïve eight-year-old boy. His family is a very ordinary German family, for that time, except his father had just been promoted to a high position within the military, causing the family, much to the children's chagrin, to move out to the country (discovered in the first five minutes of the film).
In this movie, you will see a wide range of acceptance and emotion for the German political agenda. You'll see the happenings of this family from the boy's perspective, including his introduction to the Jewish people.
In my opinion, this movie is very well made, intelligent, and powerful. The messages that are being conveyed are wonderful conversation pieces. It's time to expand horizons and stimulate the brain with this very strong film. Grab some family or friends, or someone from the office and see what this movie is all about.
on March 27, 2011
This is a great movie, very touching and heartwarming (up to a certain point), about a tough and ugly subject - concentration camps during World War II. A young boy whose father is a commander in the Army comes upon another little boy wearing striped pajamas inside a fenced compound. The boy thinks the people wearing pajamas are all farmers with glorious lives (as portrayed by the soldiers), not understanding what is really happening to these people. It's a sad and profound story through the eyes of a child about the consequences of war and what we choose when we alienate any group of people based upon race, religion, or creed.
Rated PG-13 (I believe) for harsh theme, some violence.