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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Actors: Sheila Hancock, David Thewlis, David Hayman, Jim Norton, Vera Farmiga
Director: Mark Herman
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
PG-13     2009     1hr 34min

From Miramax Films, the studio that brought you the Academy Award winning Life is Beautiful (Best Foreign Language Film, 1998) comes The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Based on the best selling novel by John Boyne, it's an un...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Sheila Hancock, David Thewlis, David Hayman, Jim Norton, Vera Farmiga
Director: Mark Herman
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Miramax
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/10/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 34min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
Subtitles: Spanish

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Member Movie Reviews

Cara F. (dichten) from PRT WASHINGTN, WI
Reviewed on 11/8/2009...
This film is based on the children’s book of the same name (authored by John Boyne).

In terms of a fable, this is great. It explores the naivety (genuine or otherwise, as explained numerously in the true-life testimonials of those living near the extermination camps; those who "did not" smell the stench of burning bodies and those who "could not" see the prisoners marched to their deaths by work; those who did not or could not care), the sheer ignorance surrounding the cataclysmic horror of the Holocaust. The book, this film, dances with the specter of the crushing struggle of humanity (of truth and beauty) in such black times.

The movie itself strives to show the spiderweb of hate and evil, corruption and blindness, love and grace. It does this very well, following closely the book.

Yet this story is garishly inaccurate almost to the point of distraction. Note: I said "almost".

The main element of this movie (heck, the very glue which holds it together) is a farce, an outright lie. For all children were killed upon their entrance to Auschwitz, gassed immediately because of their inability to work. Even if some children were spared (say a child the age of Schmuel) the fences which held the Undesirables were electrified. It would not be possible for anyone to play or commune through such a fence (unnoticed by the guards), let alone crawl under it and enter the camp (again, unnoticed by the guards).

HOWEVER, as mentioned by other reviewers, the ending of the film and the book is greatly disturbing. I realize to what extent the author of the book (ergo, the director of the movie) had to go in order to bring about this ending. The bricks of lies had to be placed for the disgust of the final scenes to come about. These final scenes force us to witness a sickening truth, a truth larger than the killings. It is a truth that, while packaged in lies, is still terrifyingly effective.

Despite (or rather in spite of) the glaring untruths of this story -- I did like it. I would even say I loved it, if one can ever love something with this subject matter.

While I would not recommend this as a work about the Holocaust (because of the twisting of facts), I would recommend this as a greater fable concerning the decency, the PLIGHT of the decency, of human life.

Even with its base of flaws, this is a powerful and haunting tale.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Marianna S. (Angeloudi) from HOLIDAY, FL
Reviewed on 5/2/2009...
Like the other reviewer, I wanted to watch this movie ever since I had heard the title. Now that I've seen it, however, I will never watch it again because it would be too painful. As a student and teacher of Holocaust Studies, I am always reading accounts of memoirs and watching film depictions on the subject. This movie is unique in the way it depicts life in Berlin under Nazi rule at the beginning of the movie. Rarely do we see everyday Germans going about their business in the busy, German capital in the mid 1940s- bustling about, doing chores, running errands- life is shown as glamorous and bustling, at least for the wealthy Aryans depicted. Bruno and his family live in a beautiful mansion, filled with beautiful objects, servants, and an all-around good life. Bruno's father is feted at a soiree at the beginning announcing his promotion high within the ranks of the Waffen SS. Only his grandmother expresses her unfavorable political views towards the current Nazi government. Bruno's father is portrayed as a cold, obedient soldier who must obey the orders of his superiors. To him, the Jews are not really "human," an idea he tries to explain to the impressionable 8 year old Bruno. Bruno's 12 year old sister, a perfect example of the Aryan HitlerJugend (Hitler Youth) embraces German history and Nazism with relish. Bruno's friendship with the boy in the camp, Shmuel (Yiddish for Samuel)is developed slowly, as Bruno has been shielded by his family to the truth of what is going on in the concentration camp. There is a horrifying ending to this movie, which was somewhat unexpected. I do not wish to divulge what happens and spoil the movie. This movie is a must-see for any student of the Holocaust, but you must be prepared for an absolutely horrifying chain of tragic events at the end. We must never forget man's inhumanity to man while we have breath left in our bodies. Yad Vashem! Never forget!
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Bridgett A. (Anya) from BALTIMORE, MD
Reviewed on 5/1/2009...
I had wanted to see this movie since it came out. Be careful what you wish for. I had it on my wishlist for a long time until today. I was 14 out of 88. I deleted it after watching it on demand. The ending was so unexpected, shocking and heartbreaking. I won't give the details but if you get upset easily, do not watch this movie. It's a great movie since it does what it is supposed to do. It makes you think and feel but you might not like what you feel. While not too graphic, it does depict some circumstances in a work camp for Jews during WWII. Mans cruelty to each other is too disturbing for words. Excellent movie but I won't watch again and wish I had never seen it. Sure to win awards though.
4 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

An atypical Holocaust film that is engaging, thought-provoki
Brandon Cozart | Charlotte, NC USA | 03/11/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"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.""
A very good, thought-provoking film.
Sophia Petrillo | NC, USA | 02/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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)."
Excellent Conversation Material
D. C. Morphis | CA United States | 01/19/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"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."