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There are certain points in history that need constant retelling or they may sadly lose their significance and fade away. The Holocaust is one such event. Even today I have to wonder how many young people are unaware of what took place and how easy it could be to repeat our mistakes if we are not careful. The new film The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a decent reminder of history in that Diary of Anne Frank way. It tells the story simply, though at times harshly, through the eyes of a young boy who has a hard time making sense of it all. No matter how many times I watch films or read books that are based on any type of racial discrimination I have to shake my head and try to make sense of it all as well. The only thing scarier and more disappointing than these events is the thought that it could be happening again, somewhere, even now.

Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is an eight year old boy whose father is a commandant in the German army. When his family is transferred to their new home so his father can oversee one of the concentration camps, Bruno has many questions as to why things are the way they are. When he strikes up a friendship with a young Jewish boy, Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), camp he becomes even more conflicted between what is right and what he is being taught. As Bruno talks to those Jewish people who work outside the camp he is naïve in a way that would be humorous if it wasn’t so devastatingly informative. It is moving to see the shame on the faces of adults at the pure questions of an innocent child.

As I watched this film I could still not wrap my head around the attitude that the Germans had toward the Jewish people. The hatred that was bred into the children through teachers and propaganda or the way that human life was degraded to that of animals, all out of fear and ignorance, is always mind blowing. The idea of seeing this film through the eyes of an eight year old helps in the message. It gives you a chance to see it from a new, fresh perspective. The innocence of a child in contrast to the ignorance of a nation.

Granted this is no Schindler’s List. It watches like the book reads. Simply but poignantly. It does not candy coat the facts or try and paint it in calm colors. But at the same time it does not force its anger. It allows it to happen. You see how different family members of Bruno’s accept and react to the situations around them. I am sure there were many Germans who where as against these actions as where for them and many families probably experienced turmoil because of it.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material involving the Holocaust. Though the book is for all ages the film may be quite disturbing to those 11 and under. Where the book allows you to visualize only what you want or need to, the movie puts it there in stark realism. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 fences. Not a magnificent film and on some levels, mediocre. But it needs to be seen and felt and thought over. Though it is never spoken by the creative forces behind the film, it is easy to see that these types of events could be happening around us even today, to the ignorance of us all.

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com) (11/04/08)

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Review copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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