The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas (2008)

MARK HERMAN

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

United Kingdom/USA, 2008.  Miramax, BBC Films, Heyday Films.  Screenplay by Mark Herman, based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

The horrific world that has been created by adults is seen through the eyes of children in this miniature, lovely little drama by Martin Herman (Little Voice). A German family is uprooted from Berlin to the countryside when father  joins the Nazi party and is assigned to oversee a project there. His two children, a twelve year-old girl and an eight year-old boy named Bruno, find themselves isolated from anyone their own age and desperate for company. The girl’s burgeoning infatuation with a handsome soldier () sees her becoming completely indoctrinated by Nazi ideology, while Bruno’s need for a playmate takes him a few paces down the road from his house to the nearby “farm”, one surrounded by electrified barbed wire and whose workers wear striped pajamas and do a lot of heavy lifting.  it seems very odd to the young man, but he’s still happy to meet a little boy named Shmuel with whom he can play. Gradually, Bruno’s understanding of good and evil alters as the heroism he once attributed to his father begins to turn to shame and confusion:  he knows that Jews are terrible people because he’s been told so by his teachers and family, but to find out that the starvation and unhappiness he sees in his new friend is a result of his own father’s doing is unthinkable.  Vera Farmiga shines as Bruno’s mother, who is herself completely undone by the extremes of evil that she encounters. Based on the novel by John Boyne, the film is delicate, sweet and moving, hampered only by the odd fact that everyone speaks with a British accent (Farmiga is actually American, presumably asked to fit in better with the mostly British cast); we can blame The Sound Of Music for making us all believe that all Germanic peoples speak like Eton graduates. Regardless of this minor drawback, the film is timely and affecting, teaching us the age-old lesson through the devastating experience of two innocents that everything we do to others, we do to ourselves.

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