Customer Reviews: The Boy In The Striped Pajamas
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on October 1, 2009
I'm teaching The Boy in the Striped Pajamas to my lower level students this year. I absolutely loved the fable and thought it would be a great way to teach the students the literary term theme. I purchased this film to cover my state's media standards. I'm so glad that a classroom edition was available. It has bonus material that will be great to show the kids to discuss propaganda (also a state standard). I'm usually a die-hard believer in "the book is better," however, this film adaptation is incredible. I know it will spark a great discussion on the differences between print versus non-print. I'm excited to begin this unit with my students. I highly recommend using the film in your classroom. Plus, there are great teaching sources on the film available on the Internet (like a discussion guide).
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on August 17, 2013
There are movies we watch and there are movies we don't watch and then we have The Boy In The Striped Pajamas...

This is a movie EVERYBODY should watch!

Why, you say... sorry, I can't tell :)

But one reason is: it's a brilliantly told story with a brilliant ending!

And, whenever someone tells you something sounding completely unbelievable, think of this movie!

What are you waiting for?

Get it! Watch it!

You'll never regret it!
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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS is a 'compleat' motion picture: even the title states the vision of the film in a subtly powerful way. Based on the excellent novel by John Boyne and adapted for the screen by director Mark Herman, this film has the courage to re-visit the Holocaust from the child's perspective. Not that it covers up the atrocities of that horrid event and time - quite the opposite: in electing to examine that period in history the stance is that of two children, one German son of an officer in Hitler's armed forces and one son of a Jewish captive living with his father in a concentration camp. The juxtaposition of these two eight year old boys separated not only by a fence but by an ideology neither of them can fathom the other's side makes for not only a brilliant film but also an unforgettable emotional experience.

Bruno (Asa Butterfield in an extraordinary performance) is eight, his sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) is twelve and the two live with their parents in 1940 Berlin - father (David Thewlis) is a Komandant in Hitler's army and mother (Vera Farminga) is a popular socialite and loving mother. Father is 'promoted' and will be in charge of a new 'position' that means moving from their beautiful Berlin home to a 'home in the country'. Though Bruno doesn't want to leave his friends the family does indeed move - to a cold house next to what Bruno perceives is a farm. The father is forbidden to share his role and the meaning of it with his family, but it soon becomes obvious by the smoke stacks spewing hideously smelling odors into the atmosphere that the 'farm' is a concentration camp. The house servant Pavel (David Hayman), though abused by the father, becomes Bruno's friend when Bruno sustains an injury: Pavel quietly admits to Bruno that despite his 'pajama' uniform from the 'farm' that he practiced medicine in the past. Bored, Bruno explores the forbidden area outside his home confines and finds a barbed wire electrified fence behind which sits Shmuel (Jack Scanlon) who becomes Bruno's friend. Neither lad understands the differences between them until Shmuel is sent into Bruno's household to polish glasses for a party: the armed forces chauffeur Lieutenant Kotler (Rupert Friend) beats the 'little filthy Jew' for eating pastries Bruno has shared with him - a fact that the terrified Bruno denies.

The mother discovers the truth about the 'farm' and the smoke stacks and sinks into a depression, loathing that her husband is in charge of such atrocities. Gretel becomes transformed as a Hitler youth under the influence of the children's tutor (Jim Norton) and there are obvious philosophical schisms in the family. Bruno, regretting his treatment of Shmuel, continues to sneak food to him and plans to help his young friend save Shmuel's father: Bruno digs into the 'farm' and the results bring the film to a terrifying and abrupt end.

Both young actors give enormously moving performances and the manner in which Herman directs the action underlines the blur of perception many German's had about the reality of the Final Solution. But for what this viewer perceives as the reason the film sustains the powerful message it does is the manner in which it ends. There are no attempts to 'sanitize' this film: it simply ends with a lightning bolt jolt that is one of the most powerful statements in all of the many films about the Holocaust. It is simply a brilliant masterpiece of a movie from every aspect of judging it - acting, direction, music, cinematography, editing - and why this film failed to make an impression on the critics and public (and the Oscar folks!) when it was released in the theaters remains a conundrum. Highly recommended for all audiences. Grady Harp, March 09
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on July 6, 2013
I actually accidentally saw this film late one night on T.V.

I cried and cried and cried. After seeing it I had to find a copy for all of my children and grand children to see.
We need truthful heart wrenching films like this to remind us of how wrong society can get if its citizen's
aren't watchful.

I turned to Amazon in hopes of finding this movie...yes!, there it was.
Get it... Don't miss this wake-up call.
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VINE VOICEon April 14, 2009
How wonderful it must be to see the world through the eyes of an oblivious child. There are no jobs, no wars, no famine, no taxes, no real thought of danger. For a young boy named Bruno (Asa Butterfield), the naivety and innocence could prove to be potentially dangerous.

An up-and-coming SS officer (David Thewlis) is given a promotion; and as a result of his new assignment, his family is forced to move. Traveling from the relative safety of Berlin to a very large, remote house was not what anyone other than the father expected. Simultaneously supportive and reluctant, his family - especially the mother (played with heart-breaking emotion by Vera Farmiga) - soon realizes their new home is adjacent to an active concentration camp.

With more than a passing resemblance to a mini-Hitler, Bruno is a typically adventurous boy. Having a soldier for a father is a source of pride and admiration for him; he'd love nothing better than to emulate his father. He initially notices the local "gardeners" in "pajamas" and becomes intrigued. While exploring the woods in his backyard, something strictly forbidden from by his mother, he comes across the nearby camp and meets Shmuel (Scanlon), an emaciated, filthy eight-year old Jewish prisoner. The two form a tenuous and dangerous friendship, discussing their childish similarities, but also uncovering at least one significant difference: their feeling towards soldiers. Neither understands the precariousness of their surroundings, nor do they understand the hideous smells coming from a burning smokestack very nearby.

Eventually their shared innocence disintegrates under the pressure of their real world surroundings as Bruno attempts to comprehend why everyone seems to hate the Jews even though his friend Shmuel is such a nice guy. The final jaw-dropping moment shines light on the possibility of tragedy when one is ignorant, oblivious, or purposefully turning a blind eye to the surrounding dangers.

The performances from all are incredibly moving. Witnessing not only the loss of Jewish childhood via the stolen dignity, humanity, and life itself, but also that of the German childhood manipulated via the indoctrination of Nazi propaganda, truly delivers an incredibly heave message that resonates long after the movie is complete. Truly stunning, this film does an incredible job at displaying the atrocities of the death camps while providing an invaluable teaching tool. Highly recommended and emotionally devastating.
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VINE VOICEon February 24, 2009
My sister just left a voicemail for me. She sounded very hurt and upset because I made her watch this film. She said it was very depressing. But I think she didn't understand the relevance, the beauty, the heart-sink. I don't really think I can make her see it but then this film is for people like me and no, I'm not going to go into myself.

What is absolutely remarkable about THE BOY IN STRIPED PAJAMAS is how there's no parallel monalogue of sorts. There is no sense of a common opinion being preached to you. The film very subtly gets its point across, the dialogue is apt and witty, the accent is English, the sets are wonderful, the characters all seem to leave an impression and towards the end of the film when you finally realize why the film is titled so, you will learn to appreciate it.

On some message boards, I read some backlash towards this film but I think naysayers can say what they can yet you must not ignore the particular character, central character. By the time the credits roll, you'll be too stunned to move. I hope this gets its due by the time it's out.
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on May 28, 2016
Haunting. Transporting. Devastatingly necessary. I heard the director Mike Nichols say, the following about another movie (Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf), "This isn't life. This is ABOUT life." That's what a true and moving fiction is. It's more than life. It's about more than life. It's not meant to depict "reality." This film is meant to illuminate so much more about all of us, as humans. You can't stand on one side of the fence or the other, stand at an emotional distance, and watch this film. Or, rather, you can if you tick off your list of "this would never happen, that would never happen, etc." I've watched this film three times over the years. I always have to steel my self. I'm always devastated and somehow renewed. Illumination does that to a person. I couldn't go away from this film, not once in three viewings, without looking inward at myself and outward at the world entire that allowed the Holocaust to happen and claimed to be "innocent" of all knowledge of it's existence. History continues to repeat itself all over the planet. This film depicts the devolution and destruction of innocence--as metaphor, as historical "fact" re-imagined, as mythology, as story told by a master director, and screen writer who captured the heart of the original novel. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! This film gives me hope for humanity. Humane humans created this film. The actors, children and adults, portray our beauty, our cruelty, and our devastating innocence.
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on June 7, 2015
As a former military officer in the U.S. Armed Forces, it was my privilege to be involved with studies in Air Command and Staff College (ACSC) and the Air War College. In addition I received premiere education about the Nuremberg Code of 1947 and the Nuremberg Trials as conducted by Allies as the International War Crimes Trials. That background is not meant to impress the reader of this review. Rather I have looked for films that are based on historical novels and take a complicated subject so that the person with an average high school education can be enlightened. This is accomplished in the DVD, "The Boy In Stripped Pajamas." Two young actors, Asa Butterfield as Bruno, and Jack Scanlon as Schmuel are magnificent to the point of Genius, who portrayed what could have happened - and did happen - in Work Camps that were in an annex network with a main concentration camp. The producers in conjunction with Hungarian, British, German and Budapest expertise recreated the tragic atmosphere
of what happened to individuals both directly and indirectly involved with Hitler's final solution. The Genius of this DVD, is any member of a family
- no matter how young or old - can grasp what happened in the Holocaust - and must not take place again. I purchased this DVD and it is an essential part of my DVD collection. It is often overlooked that the innocent were exterminated in the WW II camps whether a work place or concentration center. It is important the young as well as the adults in the world comprehend what the Holocaust was. Here is an excellent movie
to help gain that understanding in contemporary terms. Mankind did not cross over into Jordan during the 20th Century - and neither have we in the
21st Century. This DVD is an superb example to view and learn.
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on March 17, 2009
This is the saddest movie you're likely to see ever, not so much for the wrenching intimate tragedy it portrays but for the historical reality that it epitomizes. Could you possibly make sense of this film if you knew nothing at all about the mass murder of Jews in Hitler's Germany and the lands that Germany occupied? I don't think so! Fortunately, there are few people that ignorant of history alive right now, although there are a vicious few who deny it. Clearly, this is a film not just about two boys but also about the species that labels itself scientifically as Homo sapiens -- "Human knowing".

Having survived 60% of the Twentieth Century, I can testify that it was the most tragic on record. Yeah, yeah, we were born with higher life expectancies and we had shinier toys. But it was the century of mass murder, conducted by the polity that we had supposedly evolved to manage our savagery. The most extensive mass murders were generated by ideologies wrapped in racism and nationalism, and sometimes sheathed with phony science. Do I need to indict the murderers here? Nearly all of Europe, even including France, had temporary governments that helped Hitler murder Jews. Stalin's USSR murdered uncountable millions. Cambodia. Uganda. Rwanda. Chile. Argentina, El Salvador and more ... murderous governments. Those rabid denouncers of the national/federal government of the USA should take note: though racism and xenophobia and fanaticism thrived in the USA also in the 20th C, the federal government never fell into the paws of the mass murderers. In fact, though the feds were guilty of segregationist behavior and repression of some forms of thought, much more obviously the federal government took effective measures to moderate the racist behaviors of state governments and of "us the People."

What does this have to do with a movie review? Everything! Because this movie made me think of history at every frame. It also made my wife cry on my shoulder disconsolately, and it made my teenage son turn off his laptop and stop wise-cracking for the rest of the evening. If you haven't already been informed of the scenario, here it is: Bruno's father, an ambitious and convinced Nazi military officer, is appointed to command a "work camp" -- really a death camp -- in a remote rural area. He takes his family there. His 8-year-old son, Bruno, finds a way to sneak out of the safe but boring home compound. Bruno finds the fence that surrounds the imprisoned Jews and makes contact with a boy his age, in a striped uniform that Bruno takes for pajamas. Sitting on opposite sides of the barbwire, the two naive boys form a bond....

Some reviewers have objected that the boy Bruno, the central character, was implausibly naive, even for a pampered and protected eight-year-old. But the boy is something bigger than a single child; he's a synecdoche of the Germans (and Americans!) who "didn't know" and couldn't believe and perhaps couldn't care enough until it was too late. I suppose I'm taking the film as an allegory.

Bruno's father and grandfather, seemingly decent men committed to duty and patriotism, are in fact "whited sepulchers" of ideology gone mad. They are surely Goldhagen's "willing executioners." The mother and grandmother are shown to be conscience-stricken, but they too are executioners, unwilling if you want to defend them, but guilty of passivity. Once again thinking allegorically, I'm tempted to see all of Germany's postwar agony on the faces of the horrified parents.

If this movie seems more to you than an evening's vicarious 'entertainment,' I suggest that you get acquainted with the books of W. G. Sebald, especially "Austerlitz" and "The Emigrants." Sebald is postwar Germany's greatest writer and most profound analyst of guilt.
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on January 3, 2009
Let me start by saying that I will probably never again be trusted with choosing the family after-Christmas movie again. I knew there would be sad tones and sad themes given that it was a Holocaust movie. But I thought that since it was from a child's point of view it would be more palatable. And for the most part it was, and probably because it was from a child's point of view. But the ending was anything but palatable. It was dark and terrible even by Holocaust movie standards.

The story of a young son of a concentration camp commandant who befriends a Jewish boy his age on the other side of the wire may sound a bit implausible to die-hard history buffs, but it definitely makes for a fascinating premise. And so the viewer (or reader, as it was based on a novel) is very interested in seeing how it all plays out.

What surprised me most about THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS was the light-hearted and sometimes even downright humorous moments. The great paradox is to find oneself chuckling during a light scene only to be suddenly jolted out of one's humor a mere second or two later and brought back to the reality of what the film is about.

The acting by all cast members is superb, but especially by the two principal boy actors portraying Bruno, the 8-year-old son of the Nazi commandant and Shmuel (pronounced SHMOLL), the Jewish boy who is prisoner in Bruno's father's concentration camp. Their on-screen chemistry far surpasses that of most adult movie stars in the industry today.

The primary problem I have with STRIPED PAJAMAS is I have no idea who this film's target audience is meant to be. Perhaps adults, but most adults would be able to handle a more realistic (by "realistic" I simply mean in terms of graphic content) portrayal of the Holocaust. This film is certainly violent, but virtually all of the violence occurs off-screen and is implied. (The filmmakers did an excellent job of shocking the audience more by what is not seen than what is seen. Especially at the end.) The target audience may also be children, but I would not let a child of mine watch this unless they were at least 11 or 12 years of age and were able to handle this kind of subject matter.

Overall, STRIPED PAJAMAS is one of the best films I saw in 2008. I don't recall hearing any profanity, and surprisingly there was no gratuitous violence. If a Holocaust movie could possibly be a family movie as well, then this was one. But take care, for this was also the most thought-provoking movie I saw in 2008.
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