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This movie is a vivid, meticulously observed and detailed attempt to imagine the unthinkable, to see the unimaginable – through the eyes of a child, a lively and outgoing little boy named Bruno. Bruno is the youngest member of a loving and affectionate family; he has an older sister who is at that age of being on the cusp between playing with her vast collection of dolls and her first teenage crush. Their father is a professional soldier, rising up in the ranks, who has a prestigious new assignment which will take them far from the city, and their mother, a beautiful socialite – who obviously cherishes her children, nonetheless. It is a small world, the world of a child – delineated by the streets between a home and school, playmates and parents, the grandparents – a gruff and bluff Grandfather, and the queenly grandmother with sharp eyes and an even sharper tongue. Within the space of the first ten minutes, Bruno and his family are wrenched away from everything familiar and dear, when his father is sent off to a new assignment – away from a comfortable and stately old house in the city to a new and uncomfortably modern one, away out in the country.

Of course, it is instantly plain to everyone above the awareness of a mollusk that Bruno’s father is an SS officer in Nazi Germany, and that the new assignment is at a concentration camp … and that the uncomfortably modern villa – so far away from everyone and everywhere, and staffed by slave labor – is on the periphery of the camp, where Bruno’s father is in charge. The viewer knows this, simultaneously seeing and knowing, and yet seeing it filtered through Bruno’s awareness, that bright and lonely small boy looking for someone to play with. In spite of his parents’ efforts to keep him out of the back garden and woods which lead down to the periphery fence around the camp, Bruno does find a friend, another bright and lonely small boy, a Jewish prisoner named Shemuel. They play checkers through the fence, strike up an unlikely friendship. Bruno brings him food – and childlike, never gets around to wondering why Shemuel is constantly hungry.

Other reviewers have noted that both Bruno, and especially Shemuel seem to be quite terribly – even fatally naïve about a great many matters, not finding it quite credible that both of them would be so clueless about the camp, about Nazi aims for the Jews, about the purpose of the camp itself, especially after the brutality that Shemuel experiences during this movie, and that he would have experienced in being brought to the camp. It might be stretching the bounds of believability, but I recall that as I child, among other children, we lived in our very own world. Nothing bad could ever happen to children, and yet at the same time, we were most amazingly accepting of the most startling circumstances, as long as our parents were present, and calm. Of course we were safe, Mummy and Dad were there and they said so. Remembering this, I can accept that Bruno would go to Shemuel’s aid within the camp – Shemuel was his friend, and Bruno felt guilty for having let him down, once. And so this movie ends, on an abrupt and brutal note. Although it is about children, it is not a movie for children of the age that the protagonists are, unless you wish to traumatize them completely.
Of the extras, there is the usual “Making of” feature, and a selection of deleted scenes – about half of which, in my opinion, would have been very well included in the feature itself.

The Boy In the Striped Pajamas is now available through Amazon.com and other retail outlets.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book project – The Adelsverein Trilogy is also available through Amazon.com. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com.

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