Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

I am not going to lie to you. If you watch this movie, you are going to cry. It is perhaps one of the saddest movies I have ever seen.

Bruno shaking hands with his new found friend

Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is an 8-year-old boy growing up in Germany. His father is a Commandant in the German Army who has been assigned to oversee Auschwitz. They move to a house near the concentration camp and Bruno is miserable that he isn't allowed out to explore the surrounding area. As any young child would most likely do, he disobeys his parents and goes exploring anyway. He eventually finds and befriends a boy named Shmuel (Jack Scanlon) whom he thinks lives on a strange farm and wears strange striped pajamas.

It is interesting to watch the atrocity that happened through the eyes of a young, innocent boy. It makes complete sense that there is no way for children to take in and understand what they are seeing as it happens. The innocent questions Bruno asks and the conclusions he draws, when we as the audience knows what's really going on, is completely heart-breaking.

One of the things I liked is how all of the German characters, even Bruno, are shown as humans who are capable of both good and bad acts. It would have been so easy to paint all the German soldiers as monsters, and while most of them were monsters to the Jewish population, they are still shown as multi-dimensional, caring folks to others. Even Bruno is shown to have faults when faced with a difficult situation.

Everything about this movie is both beautiful and heart-breaking simultaneously. The performances are amazing. Both boys show so much innocence and pain on their faces, I don't know how they were able to pull off the performances they did about such a horrible tragedy at such a young age. I would imagine it would be terribly difficult for a young boy to even understand the depth of emotions, nevermind portray them. Most of the adult actors give restrained performances consisting largely of subtle looks as Bruno asks questions to try to understand. I liked they also showed the range of emotion an adult felt (Bruno's mother) when learning the truth of what was really happening at the camps. It helps give an emotional counter-balance to the calm German soldiers coldly going about their business. I also want to add that the cinematography and lighting is all so stunning too. It is so hard to take in the beauty of the cinematography when the subject is so disturbing. It creates an attraction/repulsion at the same time which works because that is what most of the characters are feeling as well.

Believe me, I know it is sometimes hard to get geared up for watching a gut-wrenching film, but this is a very important one. Gird yourself and go for it. This is a great film that everyone needs to watch. Just remember to bring to bring your kleenex as you have been warned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i disagree

i think that the boys portray 0 emotion on their faces, the story has little to no historical accuracy

and the whole idea is absurd and romantizised

and they all speak in perfect BRITISH accents