Published Nov 06, 2008Arguably one of the most challenging and devastating films of the year, The Boy in Striped Pyjamas makes the unique decision to reveal the atrocities of WWII through the eyes of childhood innocence and naivety. A relatable groundwork is set, effectively making unsavoury revelations which an adult audience are already far too aware of that much more horrifying and fresh. This is clearly the intent, as the horrors of the holocaust are often met nowadays with obligatory solemnity and passive remembrance rather than any sort of shock to the system.
Its true that the film takes some liberties with sheer logic, having some extremely lax security around a concentration camp and a lead character whose innocence occasionally borders on unbelievable ignorance, but the efficiency and clarity of the overall parable are achievements that easily fill these plot holes.
The story follows Bruno (Asa Butterfield), an average eight-year-old boy who is moved to the countryside so that his Nazi Commandant father (David Thewlis) can run a concentration camp. Understandably bored with the rural digs, and too far in age from sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) to play with her, Bruno explores his surroundings looking for excitement.
Regardless of the many warnings from his mother (Vera Farmiga), Bruno leaves the property and winds up at the fence of the camp where he meets Shmuel (Jack Scanlan), a Jewish prisoner with whom he strikes up a friendship.
For the sake of accessibility, Farmiga and Thewliss characters are pared down to archetypes, with Thewlis barking blind Nazi beliefs and Farmiga opposing them as she learns of additional details such as mass slaughter which she finds sufficiently unpalatable. Some may criticize this decision despite the fact that it is clearly crafted with the intent of conveying attitudinal beliefs to a child.
Nevertheless, both performances are nothing short of impressive and complex, and the film on the whole packs an emotional punch that only the truly heartless could ignore. (Maple)