The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (film)
|The Boy in the Striped Pajamas|
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||94 minutes|
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a 2008 British-Irish historical-drama buddy 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.
The film opens in Berlin in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust where a little boy named Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is seen playing with his three friends. After arriving home he learns that his father Ralf (David Thewlis) has been promoted to SS-Obersturmbannführer Commandant. After a party to celebrate the promotion, Bruno, his father, Bruno's mother Elsa (Vera Farmiga) and older sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) relocate to Poland. Bruno hates his new home as there is nobody to play with and very little to explore. After spotting people working on what he thinks is a farm he is also forbidden from playing in the back garden.
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 is confused about Nazi Propaganda, because the Jews Bruno has seen, in particular the family's Jewish servant Pavel (David Hayman), do not resemble the caricatures in Liszt's teachings.
Bruno one day disobeys his parents and sneaks off beyond the back garden. He eventually arrives at a barbed wire fence surrounding a camp, and befriends a boy his own age named Shmuel (Jack Scalon) who lives on the inside and who asks for food. In the ensueing conversation, the pair's lack of knowledge as to the true nature of the camp is revealed, with Bruno thinking that the striped uniforms that Shmuel, Pavel and the other prisoners all wear are "pajamas". Bruno starts meeting Shmuel regularly, sneaking him food and playing board games with him. Bruno eventually learns Shmuel is a Jew and that he was brought to the camp along with his father.
One day Elsa discovers the reality of Ralf's assignment after Kotler lets slip that the source of the black smoke coming from the camp's chimneys is due to the burning corpses of dead Jews. Elsa confronts and argues with Ralf and is disgusted and heartbroken. At dinner that night, after Bruno claims Herr Liszt won't let him read adventure books and that he mainly teaches him history, Kotler admits history was his favorite subject but that that didn't please his father, who as an academic persecuted by the Nazis, had moved to Switzerland. Ralf, upon hearing this, tells Kotler he should have informed the authorities of his father's past as it was his duty. The embarrassed Kotler then uses Pavel's spilling of a wine glass as an excuse to beat the inmate to death. The next morning the maid, Maria, is seen cleaning up the blood stains.
Later that day Bruno sees Pavel's replacement and notices Shmuel has been ordered to the house to clean glasses because of his nimble fingers. Bruno offers him some cake and they start talking. Kotler appears, sees Shmuel chewing and accuses him of stealing. Shmuel says Bruno offered him the cake, but because he is scared of Kotler, Bruno denies this, stating that he has never seen Shmuel before. Believing Bruno, Kotler orders Shmuel to finish cleaning the glasses and that they will then have a "little chat about what happens to rats who steal". Bruno goes to his room distraught and decides to apologize to Shmuel, but he has gone. Every day Bruno returns to the same spot by the camp but does not see Shmuel. Eventually Shmuel re-appears behind the fence with a black eye. Despite Bruno's betrayal, Shmuel forgives him and renews his friendship.
After the funeral of his grandmother, who was killed in Berlin by bombing, Ralf (after another argument with Elsa) decides Bruno and Gretel are to stay with a relative while he "finishes his work" at the camp, accepting that it is no place for the children to live in. Shmuel has problems of his own as his father has gone missing in the camp. Bruno decides to redeem himself by helping Shmuel find his father. The next day Bruno, who is due to leave, arrives back at the camp, and digs under the fence disguised as a Jew. Bruno soon discovers the true nature of the camp after seeing many sick and weak looking Jews. At one of the huts the boys are taken on a march with other inmates by Sonderkommandos.
At the house, Bruno's absence is noticed. After Gretel and Elsa discover the open window Bruno went through and the remains of a sandwich Bruno was taking for Shmuel, Elsa bursts into Ralf's meeting to alert him that Bruno is missing. Ralf and his men mount a search to find him. They enter the camp, searching for Bruno. In the mean time, Bruno, Shmuel and the other inmates are stopped inside a changing room and are told to take their clothes off for a "shower". They are packed into a gas chamber, where Bruno and Shmuel hold each other's hands. An SS soldier pours some Zyklon B pellets into the chamber, and 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, introducing a sad telling that Bruno has died.
- 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 Nathalie (Grandma)
- Richard Johnson as Matthias (Grandpa)
- Cara Horgan as Maria
- Jim Norton as Herr Liszt
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, American critic Roger Ebert declared that the film is not attempting to be a forensic reconstruction of Germany during the war, but is "about a value system that survives like a virus".
- British Independent Film Award
- Young Artist Awards
- Dargis, Manohla (November 7, 2008). "Horror Through a Child's Eyes". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2009.
- Ebert, Roger (November 5, 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved June 25, 2013.
- 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.
- BIFA 2008 Nominations at British Independent Film Awards
- 2009 Goya Awards at Alt Film Guide
- 2009 Winners—Film Categories at The Irish Film & Television Academy
- 2009 Nominations & Recipients at Young Artist Awards
- 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