The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (film)
|The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mark Herman|
|Produced by||David Heyman|
|Screenplay by||Mark Herman|
|Based on||The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
by John Boyne
|Music by||James Horner|
|Editing by||Michael Ellis|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Running time||93 minutes|
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, released in the United States as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is a 2008 historical-drama film based on the novel of the same name by Irish writer John Boyne. Directed by Mark Herman and produced by David Heyman, it stars Asa Butterfield, Jack Scanlon, David Thewlis, Vera Farmiga, Amber Beattie and Rupert Friend.
This film is a Holocaust drama, and it explores the horror of a World War II Nazi extermination camp through the eyes of two 8-year-old boys; one the son of the camp's Nazi commandant, the other a Jewish inmate.
SS-Obersturmbannführer Commandant Ralf (David Thewlis) and his wife Elsa (Vera Farmiga) move from Berlin to the countryside with their children, 12-year-old Gretel (Amber Beattie) and 8-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield), after Ralf is promoted to commandant of a Nazi concentration camp. Bruno is confined to the front grounds of his family's new home and craves companionship and adventure. He disobeys his parents by sneaking out and trekking through the woods to an isolated, unguarded corner of the camp, where he befriends Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a Jewish boy his own age. They meet in the same spot every day. Bruno starts bringing Shmuel food and playing games with him through the barbed wire fence. Shmuel gradually reveals to Bruno some of the truth of what is behind the fence, telling him that he and his family have been imprisoned and forced to wear the "striped pyjamas" because they are Jews. On hearing this, Bruno remembers what he has been taught about Jewish people but realises that Shmuel is not evil and continues their friendship.
Bruno and Gretel get a tutor, Herr Liszt (Jim Norton), who pushes an agenda of antisemitism and nationalist propaganda. Gretel becomes increasingly fanatical in her support for the Third Reich, covering her bedroom wall with Nazi propaganda posters, much to the confusion of Bruno. She flirts with SS-Obersturmführer Lieutenant Kurt Kotler (Rupert Friend), her father's subordinate, as her budding sexuality becomes fixated on the ideal of the German soldier. Bruno remains skeptical of Nazi Propaganda, because all of the Jews Bruno knows, including the family's servant Pavel (David Hayman), do not resemble Liszt's teachings.
One day, Kurt Kotler and Elsa are in the front yard when smoke, from corpses being burned, floats up from the camp. Kurt does not realise that Elsa doesn't know about the Jews being burnt and says "They smell even worse when they burn, don't they." Ralf had been sworn to secrecy about the camp's true aims and hadn't told Elsa what was happening. Later, a blazing row between Elsa and Ralf occurs. It is insinuated that Elsa revealed who told her about the camp's secret. Ralf interrogates Kotler about his father's loyalty to the Nazi party. This puts Kotler in a bad mood, and when Pavel accidentally knocks over his glass while trying to fill it up, he drags him into another room, and the sounds of Pavel being severely beaten are heard. The next morning, the family's maid, Maria, is shown scrubbing bloodstains off the floor, and Elsa appears as though she has been crying.
Bruno sees Shmuel cleaning glasses in the house and stops to ask about what he is doing. Shmuel tells him that he was called in because the family needed someone with small hands to clean the glasses. Bruno gives Shmuel some food, and Kotler comes in, asking him why he is eating. Shmuel says that Bruno gave him the food, but Bruno denies it, saying he has never met the Jew, to get out of trouble. Kotler tells Shmuel that they will "have a little talk" about what happens to Jews who steal food. Bruno goes to his room and starts crying, regretting what he has said. For the next few days, Bruno goes to the concentration camp, but Shmuel is nowhere to be seen. Finally, one day Shmuel is back sitting where he sat before, but now his eye is cut and bruised. Bruno asks if they are still friends, and Shmuel nods.
Gradually, Ralf is convinced that the house is no place for a child to grow up and makes arrangements for Elsa and the children to leave the area for a "safer" place with a relative, while he remains to "finish his work" at the camp. The day before Bruno is due to leave, Shmuel reveals that his father has gone missing in the camp. It is implied that he was taken into a gas chamber. Seeing an ideal opportunity to redeem himself for wronging Shmuel previously, Bruno digs a hole beneath the fence, changes into prison clothing that Shmuel has stolen for him, and enters the camp to help Shmuel find his father. Bruno is horrified by what he sees: the dehumanisation, starvation, and sickness are the antithesis of the Theresienstadt-esque propaganda film that had shaped his prior impressions. While searching for Shmuel's father, they are rounded up with others and marched to "the showers", the gas chambers.
At the house, Bruno's absence is noticed. After Gretel and Elsa discover the open window Bruno went through and the remains of food Bruno was taking for Shmuel, Ralf and his men mount a search to find him. They enter the camp, searching for Bruno. In the gas facility, the inmates - including Bruno and Shmuel — are told to remove their clothes, amid speculation that it is only for a shower. While Bruno changes his clothes, he looks around and notices a man who sees him but then looks away.
They are packed into the gas chambers, where Bruno and Shmuel take each other's hands. An SS soldier pours some Zyklon B pellets into the chamber. The prisoners start yelling and banging on the metal door. Ralf, still with his men, arrives at an empty dormitory, signalling to him that a gassing is taking place. Ralf cries out his son's name, and Elsa and Gretel fall to their knees. The film ends by showing the closed door of the now-silent gas chamber.
- Vera Farmiga as Elsa (Mother)
- David Thewlis as Ralf (Father)
- Amber Beattie as Gretel
- Asa Butterfield as Bruno
- Rupert Friend as Kurt Kotler
- David Hayman as Pavel
- Jack Scanlon as Shmuel
- Sheila Hancock as Grandma
- Richard Johnson as Matthias (Grandpa)
- Cara Horgan as Maria
- Jim Norton as Herr Liszt
- "Boys Playing Airplanes" – 4:13
- "Exploring the Forest" – 2:36
- "The Train Ride to a New Home" – 3:34
- "The Winds Gently Blow Through the Garden" – 5:57
- "An Odd Discovery Beyond the Trees" – 2:51
- "Dolls Aren't for Big Girls, Propaganda is..." – 3:43
- "Black Smoke" – 1:43
- "Evening Supper – A Family Slowly Crumbles" – 7:53
- "The Funeral" – 1:54
- "The Boys' Plans, From Night to Day" – 2:36
- "Strange New Clothes" – 9:53
- "Remembrance, Remembrance" – 5:31
The film has a 64% with a 6.2/10 average rating on Rotten Tomatoes. James Christopher in The Times referred to it as "a hugely affecting film. Important, too". Conversely, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times summed it up as "the Holocaust trivialized, glossed over, kitsched up, commercially exploited and hijacked for a tragedy about a Nazi family".
Some critics have called the very premise of the book and subsequent film—that there would be a child of Shmuel's age in the camp—an unacceptable fabrication. Reviewing the original book, Rabbi Benjamin Blech wrote: "Note to the reader: There were no nine-year-old Jewish boys in Auschwitz—the Nazis immediately gassed those not old enough to work." But, according to statistics from the Labour Assignment Office, Auschwitz-Birkenau contained 619 living male children from one month to fourteen years old on August 30, 1944. On January 14, 1945, 773 male children were registered as living at the camp. "The oldest children were sixteen, and fifty-two were less than eight years of age." "Some children were employed as camp messengers and were treated as a kind of curiosity, while every day an enormous number of children of all ages were killed in the gas chambers." However Roger Ebert proposes that the film is not even attempting to be a forensic reconstruction of Germany during the war, but "about a value system that survives like a virus".
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (September 2011)|
- British Independent Film Award:
- Premio Goya:
- Best European Film (nominated)
- Irish Film and Television Award:
- Best International Film (nominated)
- Young Artist Awards:
- Dargis, Manohla (November 7, 2008). "Horror Through a Child's Eyes". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2009.
- "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- Vilkomerson, Sara (March 31, 2009). "On Demand This Week: Lost Boys". The New York Observer. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
- Christopher, James (September 11, 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas Review". The Times. Archived from the original on August 30, 2009. Retrieved August 30, 2009.
- Blech, Benjamin (October 23, 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". Aish.com. Archived from the original on August 30, 2009. Retrieved August 30, 2009.
- Hermann Langbein People in Auschwitz, translated by Harry Zohn, Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c.2004. ISBN 0-8078-2816-5
- Thomas Buergenthal A lucky child : a memoir of surviving Auschwitz as a young boy. London : Profile, 2009. ISBN 1-84668-178-2.
- Official website
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas at the Internet Movie Database
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas at Box Office Mojo
- Production notes