Set in the background of World War II, a German officer moves his family to the country where his family slowly discovers what he is in charge of.
Film making 16/25
Bonus Features 18/25
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas stars Asa Butterfield as Bruno, a young German who’s father gets promoted in the German Army and they move with him to the countryside. His job is a commander or commandant of a German concentration camp but his wife and children do not really know this.
Upon moving to the camp the family is shown their house that is very close to the camp where the father, David Thewlis, is the commandant. Later in the film we do find out that the camp is Auschwitz but we never hear the father’s name spoken by anyone other than father.
Bruno is sad to move here because he left his friends and sees he has no one to play with until he spots a fence in the distance out a window in his room. Later he sneaks out of the house through the back garden and finds a forest that he runs through and comes to the fence where he meets a boy wearing what he takes as pajamas.
While talking to the boy through the fence he learns a little about the boy and his family but he is afraid he will get caught and hurries home. He has been told not to go outside the house and its compound so he is afraid he will anger his father.
The mother is also naïve about the camps purpose but takes her husband’s word that it is important work for their country until a driver accidentally reveals the true purpose of the camp. The wife starts a downhill spiral till the end of the film where she is getting more and more depressed and withdrawn while the father tries to tell his son and daughter the importance of the camp without telling them what is really happening.
During their stay the father has a nearby German come to tutor the children and the daughter takes to the schooling well while Bruno can’t stand the lessons. Bruno hates that the teacher tells him he must not bother with fictional books and needs to study history and other subjects that are beneficial to good students in Germany.
The daughter takes to this and to having all the soldiers around whom she admires and we see scenes of her putting up posters in her room promoting Germany and Hitler. Bruno continues to go to the fence where he meets Shmuel, the boy he met the first day, and they become friends, sort of.
The officer who told the mother about the camp gets one of the household servants that are actually Jews from the camp into trouble when the Commandant is questioning him about his father. The officer gets nervous about the fact that his father fled to Switzerland before the war started and the servant spills wine that he was pouring for the officer.
The officer beats the Jew in the next room and the father sits nonchalantly eating while his family stares at each other. Later Bruno comes skipping through the house and finds Shmuel cleaning dishes that had been the other servant’s job and they talk more.
Bruno offers Shmuel a roll and the officer comes in to see the boy eating and accuses him of stealing the food which Bruno says he must have. Bruno tells the officer that he has never seen the boy before and the boy is told to continue cleaning until later when the officer would talk to him about what happens to Jewish boys who steal.
A few days pass and Bruno misses his friend when he fails to show up at their fence meeting site until one day he does and has large bruises and cuts from a beating. Bruno apologizes for getting him into trouble and the boy accepts the apology with a handshake through the fence.
During this time their grandmother is killed by a bomb raid and during the funeral an officer places flowers with a card signed by Adolf Hitler that the mother starts to object about. When she starts to move forward to take the flowers off after whispering to her husband that their mother would not like it he holds her hand and prevents her.
A few days later the wife is getting more and more depressed and talks to her husband to let them leave to a relatives so the father tells the children they will be leaving. Bruno tells Shmuel he will be leaving and Shmuel tells him he will miss him, they talk some and Bruno tells Shmuel he wishes he could stay and help to find Shmuel’s father.
A few days ago Shmuel’s father had gone out with a work detail and never returned so the two boys plot to sneak into the camp and find the father. The next day Bruno sneaks out of the house before they leave and they dress him in stolen striped pajamas and sneak into the concentration camp.
While trying to find Shmuel’s father in the huts the guards start rounding up all the men and the boys get caught up with them as they are led to showers. While the boys are being forced into the showers and told to strip the mother is frantically searching for Bruno when she cannot find him in the house.
The mother runs to the father’s office and they search for the boy, eventually finding the tunnel under the fence he dug with his clothes lying on the ground. The rain is soaking the ground as the father races around the fence toward the camp and we see the naked bodies of the men being pushed into the shower.
The mother stops at the fence and kneels to pick up the boys clothes as her husband races ahead to find his son, he screams his sons name as the gas masked soldier pours something down a hole in the ceiling of the shower. At the end of the film we see the clothes of all the Jewish people hanging from hooks in the room before the shower door.
Talk about Karma and fate and all that sort of stuff, this was a great film based on the best selling novel by John Boyne. The film is well done with plenty of emotion but it does get off to a bit of a rough and slow start that really picks up in the end.
While much of the filming has truly authentic looking uniforms and other scenery the scenes are quite cleaned up and a bit too picturesque in some spots. Much of the area around the house was quite beautiful with scenes showing apple blossom filled trees in the courtyard of the commandant’s home.
They made quite a statement of the nice home with its beautiful surroundings being so close to the awful tortures going on in the nearby camp. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas did win several lesser awards but nothing like an Academy or the larger film awards.
The film is also a good one for younger kids to watch about the atrocities of the war in that there is not any real violence shown on screen but it does get the subject matter out into the open for discussion. This would be a great film for parents to watch and then have their kids watch to help them explain things about Auschwitz and the Holocaust.
The DVD edition of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas contains the film with deleted scenes, a featurette called Friendship Beyond the Fence that is a making of addition and commentary by Writer Director Mark Herman and John Boyne.
The bonus content is pretty good and gives an in depth look at the feelings and work done while filming from cast and crew for a good featurette. The other content also adds to the film some for a good amount of additional content that expands on the film and entertainment value.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a great film and well worth watching, it is a unique and different look at the Holocaust and a way to look at it from a new perspective. This is a must have film for teaching about the occurrences of World War II in a way that younger kids about the age of eight to ten could be able to watch and understand.