The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (film)
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (released as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in North America) is a 2008 tragedy film written and directed by Mark Herman. It is based on the 2006 novel of the same name by John Boyne. Set in World War II, 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 commander, and Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a Jewish prisoner. It was released in the United Kingdom on 12 September 2008.
|The Boy in the Striped Pajamas|
|Directed by||Mark Herman|
|Written by||Mark Herman|
|Based on||The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas|
by John Boyne
|Produced by||David Heyman|
|Edited by||Michael Ellis|
|Music by||James Horner|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
|Box office||$44.1 million|
Bruno is a young boy living in Berlin in Nazi Germany during World War II. His soldier father, Ralf, gets promoted and relocates the family to the "countryside" (occupied Poland). Living without neighbours, far from any town, and with no friends to play with, Bruno becomes lonely and bored. After spotting people working on what he thinks is a farm – actually a concentration camp – he is forbidden from playing in the back garden.
The tutor of Bruno and his sister Gretel, Mr Liszt, pushes an agenda of antisemitism and Nazi propaganda. This, together with Gretel's infatuation with Lieutenant Kurt Kotler, makes her fanatical in her support for the Third Reich, to the point of covering her bedroom wall with posters and a portrait of Adolf Hitler. Bruno is confused as the only Jew known to the family, their servant-prisoner Pavel, does not resemble the antisemitic caricatures in Liszt's teachings.
Bruno sneaks into the woods, arriving at a barbed wire fence surrounding the camp. He befriends a boy named Shmuel, and their ignorance of the camp's true nature is revealed: Bruno thinks the striped uniforms that Shmuel, Pavel, and the other prisoners wear are pyjamas, and Shmuel believes his grandparents died from an illness on the journey to the camp. Bruno meets Shmuel regularly, sneaking him food and playing board games. He learns Shmuel is a Jew, brought to the camp with his parents.
Bruno's mother Elsa discovers the reality of Ralf's assignment after Kotler lets slip that the black smoke coming from the camp's chimneys is from burning bodies, and she confronts him. At dinner, Kotler admits his father had left his family for Switzerland because he disagreed with the current political regime. Ralf tells Kotler he should have informed the authorities of his father's “treason”. Embarrassed, Kotler beats Pavel to death for spilling a glass of wine.
Bruno sees Shmuel working in his home, and offers him cake. When Kotler finds Bruno and Shmuel socialising, he berates Shmuel and notices him eating. Shmuel tells Kotler that Bruno offered the cake, which Bruno denies as he is afraid; Kotler tells Shmuel they will have a "little chat" later. Bruno tries to apologise to Shmuel later, but he's gone. Afterwards, Bruno sneakily sees his father and other soldiers watching a fake film of camp prisoners playing games, having meals in cafes and attending concerts. Bruno, thinking it is real, hugs his father. Kotler, for failing to inform the Nazi authorities about his father's defection, gets transferred to the Front. Bruno returns to the fence every day and eventually, Shmuel reappears, with a black eye from Kotler's "little chat". Bruno apologizes and Shmuel forgives him, renewing their friendship.
In Berlin, Ralf's mother Nathalie - who disapproves of the Nazi regime - is killed by an Allied bombing raid. At the funeral, Elsa tries to remove a wreath from the Führer out of respect for Nathalie and her beliefs, but Ralf stops her, which causes them to argue after the service. Back home, Ralf tells Bruno and Gretel that their mother is taking them to live with family where it is safer; in actual fact, Elsa stood up to Ralf and does not want them living in the vicinity of the prison camp.
Bruno visits Shmuel before he leaves, and learns that Shmuel's father has disappeared after being transferred to a different work gang. Bruno decides to redeem himself by helping Shmuel find him. Shmuel provides Bruno with a prisoner's striped outfit and a cap to cover his unshaven head, and Bruno digs under the fence to join Shmuel. He is shocked to see the many sick and frail Jews. The boys search for Shmuel’s father in one of the huts, but suddenly soldiers appear and everyone in the hut is taken to a large changing room.
Back at the house, Gretel and Elsa discover Bruno's disappearance from the house, and Elsa bursts into Ralf's meeting to alert him. Ralf and his men mount a search, with Elsa and Gretel following. A dog tracks Bruno's scent to his discarded clothing outside the fence, and Ralf enters the camp.
Meanwhile Bruno, Shmuel, and the other inmates are told to remove their clothes in preparation for a "shower". They are packed into a gas chamber and the lights go out. Bruno and Shmuel hold hands to comfort one other. As a Schutzstaffel soldier pours Zyklon B pellets inside the dark chamber, the prisoners begin to panic.
Ralf sees that a gassing is taking place and, realising what has happened, he cries out his son's name in despair; at the fence, Elsa and Gretel hear his cries and fall to their knees, wailing. The film ends with the closed door of the now silent gas chamber, indicating that all the prisoners, including Bruno and Shmuel, are now dead.
- 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 Nathalie, Bruno's grandmother
- Richard Johnson as Matthias, Bruno's grandfather
- Cara Horgan as Maria
- Jim Norton as Herr Liszt
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.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has a 64% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 142 reviews, with an average rating of 6.30/10. 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 normalised 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".
In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars out of four and said that it is not simply a reconstruction of Germany during the war, but is "about a value system that survives like a virus".
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 criticised 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  However, according to Nazi records there were 619 male children at the camp; all female and many other male children were gassed upon arrival. 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 did not, 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 major facts about the Holocaust and were less likely to be misled by it,: 131 while the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and others cited it as a book/film that should be avoided entirely, and recommendations were made that true accounts, and works from Jewish authors should be prioritised.
|2008||British Independent Film Awards||Best Actress||Vera Farmiga||Won|
|Best Director||Mark Herman||Nominated|
|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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