Thursday, 8 September 2011

Film Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Starring: Asa Butterfield (Nanny McPhee), Zac Mattoon O'Brien, Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air), David Thewlis (Harry Potter), Shelia Hancock, Rupert Friend (The Young Victoria)
Made in 2008 by Miramax Films (US)
Filmed in various locations around Hungary
Directed by Mark Herman
Based on a novel by John Boyne

This is one of 'those' movies. You know the type, the one movie you've wanted to see for a LONG time because you have a connect for it (I love the book, is my connection) but you've never seen it, so when you do see it, it's SUCH a relief. Yeah, that one.

We watched this movie at the end of term as part of History, just before we left as we were studying the Nazis and I was thrilled. We spent a lesson and a half watching most of it and were going to finish it in our last ultimate lesson, which I was also excited about for a number of reasons:
b) I was so curious about how they finished the movie, as in the book if you've read it, it suddenly stops.
c) Erm, movie instead of a lesson, hello, this is like heaven for us.

But, I had a school council meeting. Joy. So, I rushed to the end of the lesson to see the end and found they'd finished it and were raving about how sad/good/amazing the end was. Double joy. And that's how I left it. So when I saw this on BBC2 the other day, I had to tape it for later watching especially with niffy recording that stores in the TV. YAY. And...the outcome? I love this movie.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is harrowing. It is ultimately sad but has many uplifting parts especially as you know Bruno helps sparkle the life of a Jewish boy. Most of all, this movie seems too real in places.
There was times when you will want to cry or laugh or look away or do all them completely together.
Considering how hard this must be to adapt without discriminating against anyone and making it much like the book but not too similar, the makers of this movie have done a spectacular job. The movie never falls flat, always keeping you guessing, waiting, wondering for the next think in Bruno's life.

From early on, there are glimmers of the underlining problems that we all know too much about: the Nazis, the Holocaust. These continue right until the end when everything is so clear and shocking that you cannot speak for a few minutes when the credits start rolling in.
Until the end, this movie is about a little boy, ignorant to the world around him with an indoctrinated sister and family. Only him and his mother read between the lines of everything surrounding them to discover the truth, and they don't even get near the entire complete truth.
Rupert Friend as the rather scared Lieutenant Kotler - I quite
like him though.... 
The characters were amazingly well played and most were much how I imagined them. Bruno was perhaps more curious and inquisitive than I imagined, much more like an innocent boy in this than the novel. I started to care for the mother as she realised gradually what she had let herself fall into and how she fought this - knowing it was wrong and standing up, even though she knew she could be killed. This was played out more I think than in the book, but I liked this. The father was also excellent at being both loyal to his country and his family. However, being played by David Thewlis (Professor Lupin in Harry Potter), I was almost expecting at any moment for him to pull out a wand and 'Patronus' the Nazis. However, it was nice to see him in a more serious different role to the one that recognised him.
The only actor that annoyed me with their likeness from book was the character of Shmuel. The actor, Jack Scanlon, was good at playing such a hard character but nothing like the Shmuel I imagined while reading. He seemed much younger than the age of 8, when in the book, he seems older beyond his years to Bruno.  It just seemed a little unrealistic to me.

The best part? The ending. I don't feel ashamed to say, I cried. Which I normally don't in movies or books. It is so sudden, and you know what is going to happen and want to shout desperately 'NO!'. I won't reveal it but it is some of the best cinematography I have seen in a while, since Inception. Just, wow. I am so surprised this film did not win more films.

It really is a a powerful movie, showing what should and shouldn't have happened. But most of all, it is a message for the next few generations of how we can re-kindle with others; how innocent and vulnerable we can be. Why shouldn't Bruno talk to Shmuel when they are the same age exactly? This, and more, really shows the barriers society makes us have sometimes. Everyone should watch this movie. And learn.

My Review of the book of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas


  1. I thought it was good that Bruno got gassed in the end even though it was well sad because it taught his Dad a lesson. The acting in the film was alright.

    The most memorable bit was Schmuel was washing these glasses and Bruno gave Schmeul some cake, the guard came in and caught Schmuel and accused him of stealing. Schmeul told him Bruno gave it to him but Bruno lied and said he didn't. It was a bit sly for Bruno to do it but it wasn't his fault because he was scared of the soldier and it was a bit harsh on Shmeul because he got a black eye for something he didn't do :(

    I would recommend it to others, mainly to friends and family.

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  3. This is a really stunning movie. I don't recommend it for younger kids as they might find parts of it traumatic but it is a must-watch for adults. I had opportunity to tour Dachau some years ago and this very well depicts what I saw there. Be warned, the ending is rather shocking.

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