The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (film)
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (released as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in the United States) is a 2008 historical tragedy film set in World War II, based on John Boyne's 2006 novel of the same name. Written and Directed by Mark Herman, produced by BBC Films and Heyday Films, and distributed by Miramax, the film stars Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis, Asa Butterfield, and Jack Scanlon. It was released on 12 September 2008 in the United Kingdom.
|The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas|
UK theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mark Herman|
|Produced by||David Heyman|
|Screenplay by||Mark Herman|
|Based on||The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas|
by John Boyne
|Music by||James Horner|
|Edited by||Michael Ellis|
|Box office||$44.1 million|
The Holocaust drama relates the horror of a Nazi extermination camp through the eyes of two 8-year-old boys; Bruno (Asa Butterfield), the son of the camp's Nazi commandant, and Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a Jewish inmate.
The film has drawn criticism from some Holocaust educators for its inaccuracy.
The film opens with the quote "Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows", by John Betjeman. A young boy named Bruno lives with his family in Berlin, in Nazi Germany during World War II. He learns that his father Ralf has been promoted, due to which their family, including Bruno's mother Elsa and sister Gretel, relocate to the "countryside" (occupied Poland). Bruno hates his new home as there is no one to play with and very little to explore. After commenting that he has spotted people working on what he thinks is a farm in the distance (but, unbeknownst to the innocent Bruno, is actually a concentration camp), he is also forbidden from playing in the back garden.
Bruno and Gretel get a private tutor, Herr Liszt, who pushes an agenda of antisemitism and Nazi propaganda. This, together with Gretel's infatuation with one of the lieutenants, causes Gretel to become extremely fanatical in her support for the Third Reich, to the point of covering her bedroom wall with Nazi propaganda posters and portraits of Adolf Hitler. Bruno is confused as the Jews he has seen, in particular the family's Jewish servant Pavel, do not resemble the anti-Semitic caricatures in Liszt's teachings.
One day, Bruno disobeys his parents and sneaks off into the woods, eventually arriving at an electric barbed wire fence surrounding a camp. He befriends a boy his own age named Shmuel. The pair's lack of knowledge on the true nature of the camp is revealed: Bruno thinks that the striped uniforms that Shmuel, Pavel, and the other prisoners wear are pyjamas and Shmuel believes his grandparents died from an illness during their journey to the camp. Bruno starts meeting Shmuel regularly, sneaking him food and playing board games with him. He eventually learns that Shmuel is a Jew and was brought to the camp with his father and mother.
One day, Elsa discovers the reality of Ralf's assignment after Lieutenant Kurt Kotler lets slip that the black smoke coming from the camp's chimneys is due to the burning corpses of Jews. She confronts Ralf, disgusted and heartbroken. At dinner that night, Kotler admits that his father had left his family and moved to Switzerland. Upon hearing this, Ralf tells Kotler that he should have informed the authorities of his father's disagreement with the current political regime as it was his duty. The embarrassed Kotler then becomes infuriated with Pavel for accidentally spilling a glass of wine and violently beats him. The next morning the maid, Maria, is seen scrubbing the blood stains.
Later that day, Bruno sees Shmuel working in his home. Shmuel is there to clean wine glasses because they needed someone with small hands to do it. Bruno offers him some cake and willingly Shmuel accepts it. Unfortunately, Kotler happens to walk into the room where Bruno and Shmuel are socialising. Kotler is furious and yells at Shmuel for talking to Bruno. In the midst of his scolding, Kotler notices Shmuel chewing the food Bruno gave him. When Kotler asks Shmuel where he got the food, he says Bruno offered the cake, but Bruno, fearful of Kotler, denies this. Believing Bruno, Kotler tells Shmuel that they will have a "little chat" later. Distraught, Bruno goes to apologise to Shmuel, but finds him gone. Every day, Bruno returns to the same spot by the camp but does not see Shmuel. Eventually, Shmuel reappears behind the fence, sporting a black eye. Bruno apologises and Shmuel forgives him, renewing the friendship.
After the funeral of his grandmother, who was killed in Berlin by an Allied bombing, Ralf tells Bruno and Gretel that their mother suggests that they go to live with a relative because it is not safe there. In truth, Elsa suggests this because she does not want her children living with their murderous father. Shmuel has problems of his own; his father has gone missing after those with whom he participated in a march did not return to the camp. Bruno decides to redeem himself by helping Shmuel find his father. The next day, Bruno, who is due to leave that afternoon, dons a striped prisoners' outfit and a cap to cover his unshaven head, and digs under the fence to join Shmuel in the search. Bruno soon discovers the true nature of the camp after seeing the many sick and weak-looking Jews, much to his shock. While searching, the boys are taken on a march with other inmates by Sonderkommandos.
At the house, Gretel and Elsa discover Bruno's disappearance. After they discover the open window he went through, Elsa bursts into Ralf's meeting to alert him that Bruno is missing. Ralf and his men mount a search. Led by a dog tracking Bruno's scent they find his discarded clothing outside the fence. Elsa and Gretel are following along behind. Ralf enters the camp, looking for him; Bruno, Shmuel and the other inmates are stopped inside a changing room and are told to remove their clothes for a "shower". They are packed into a gas chamber, where Bruno and Shmuel hold each other's hands. A Schutzstaffel soldier pours some Zyklon B pellets inside, and the prisoners start panicking, yelling and banging on the metal door. When Ralf realises that a gassing is taking place, he cries out his son's name, and Elsa and Gretel, outside the camp but at the spot where Bruno left his clothes and dug the hole, hear Ralf's cries and fall to their knees in despair and mourn Bruno. The film ends by showing the closed door of the now silent gas chamber, indicating that all prisoners, including Bruno and Shmuel, are dead.
Filming was completed during 29 April 2007 to 7 July 2007, in Hungary. Locations included Kerepesi Cemetery in Budapest, Sacelláry Castle in Budafok and several other areas of Budapest. Interiors were filmed at Fót Studios, Budapest. Post-production was completed in London. The total cost of the production was approximately US$13 million.
- Asa Butterfield as Bruno
- Jack Scanlon as Shmuel, a young Jew sent to a concentration camp
- Vera Farmiga as Elsa, Bruno's mother
- David Thewlis as Ralf, Bruno's father
- Amber Beattie as Gretel, Bruno's older sister
- Rupert Friend as Lieutenant Kurt Kotler
- David Hayman as Pavel
- Sheila Hancock as Natalie, Bruno's grandmother
- Richard Johnson as Matthias, Bruno's grandfather
- Cara Horgan as Maria
- Jim Norton as Herr Liszt
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has a 63% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 135 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A touching and haunting family film that deals with the Holocaust in an arresting and unusual manner, and packs a brutal final punch of a twist." On Metacritic, the film has a normalized score of 55 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
James Christopher, of The Times, referred to the film as "a hugely affecting film. Important, too". Manohla Dargis, of The New York Times, said the film "trivialized, glossed over, kitsched up, commercially exploited and hijacked [the Holocaust] for a tragedy about a Nazi family".
Kelly Jane Torrance in the Washington Times said the film was moving and beautifully told. In spite of some criticism, Ty Burr of the Boston Globe filed this conclusion: "what saves 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas' from kitsch is the cold, observant logic of Herman's storytelling".
Scholars have criticized the film for obscuring the historical facts about the Holocaust and creating a false equivalence between victims and perpetrators. For example, at the end of the movie, the grief of Bruno's family is depicted, encouraging the viewer to feel sympathy for Holocaust perpetrators.:125 Michael Gray wrote that the story is not very realistic and contains many implausibilities, because children were murdered when they arrived at Auschwitz and it was not possible for them to have contact with people on the outside.:121–123 A study by the Centre for Holocaust Education at University College London found that The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas "is having a significant, and significantly problematic impact on the way young people attempt to make sense of this complex past". However, a more recent study found that the film's reception is strongly based on the viewers' previous knowledge and beliefs.:173
Research by Holocaust educator Michael Gray found that more than three-quarters of British schoolchildren (ages 13–14) in his sample had engaged with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, significantly more than The Diary of Anne Frank. The film was having a significant effect on many of the children's knowledge and beliefs about the Holocaust.:114 The children believed that the story contained a lot of useful information about the Holocaust and conveyed an accurate impression of many real-life events. The majority believed that it was based on a true story.:115–116 He also found that many students drew false inferences from the film, such as assuming that Germans would not have known anything about the Holocaust because Bruno's family didn't, or that the Holocaust had stopped because a Nazi child had accidentally been gassed.:117 Other students believed that Jews had volunteered to go to the camps because they had been fooled by Nazi propaganda, rather than being violently rounded up and deported.:119 Gray recommended studying the book only after children had already learned the key facts about the Holocaust and were less likely to be misled by it.:131
|2008||British Independent Film Awards||Best Actress||Vera Farmiga||Nominated|
|Best Director||Mark Herman||Won|
|Most Promising Newcomer||Asa Butterfield||Nominated|
|2009||Premio Goya||Best European Film||The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas||Nominated|
|Irish Film and Television Awards||Best International Film||Nominated|
|Young Artist Awards||Best Leading Performance (International Feature Film)||Asa Butterfield & Jack Scanlon||Nominated|
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