The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Movies Reviews Mark Herman
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Given how horrific the events of the Holocaust were, it’s no surprise that the film world is still exploring how those events affected everyone involved.The Boy in Striped Pyjamas takes a new perspective, framing the story through the eyes of eight-year old Bruno (Asa Butterfield).His father is a Nazi officer, transferred into a position of oversight of a concentration camp (and later revealed in one of the movie’s strongest moments to be in charge of creating pro-camp propaganda films).Bruno and his sister spent their youth sheltered in Berlin, not picking up much of what had been going around Germany. Upon arrival, though, they find themselves secluded in the countryside.Bruno’s only friend ends up being the Jewish Shmuel trapped inside the camp.

Release Date: Nov. 7

Director: Mark Herman

Writer: Mark Herman (screenplay), John Boyne (novel)

Cinematographer: Benoît Delhomme

Starring: Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Vera Farmiga, Amber Beattie, Jack Scanlon, David Hayman, Rupert Friend

Studio/Running Time: Miramax, 93 mins.

For the horrors of the time, Pyjamas feels measured and artificial.Elements like the unreal pan-Atlantic accent characters use can perhaps be forgiven, but the film seems to exist within an unrealistic Germany.Bruno shows a level of naiveté that’s borderline nonsensical, and while the film’s finale is quite harrowing, previous to that moment, the movie feels like it’s holding back.Mark Herman’s version of the holocaust is PG-rated, and it’s an understatement to point out that this is just simply wrong.

Pyjamas does end up offering a case-study in how much a B-story can add to things.If the basic plot is improbable and forced, Bruno’s interactions with his family are downright inspired.His parents’ arguments about where they should stand with the government and what’s right to tell the children are far more interesting than Bruno’s friendship.His sister Greta (Amber Beattie) develops a relationship with a German officer opposite Bruno’s own friendship, with the addition of burgeoning hormones. Her transformation into a Nazi-youth girl as a counter to Bruno’s growing sympathies for the oppressed is both a thematic and structural coup that remains poignant throughout.

These two plots interweave, but their contrast is so striking it’s hard to believe they can coexist within the same world.If Pyjamas stuck with its familial plot instead of shoehorning it together with Shmuel, it would offer up a story like no other on film.As it stands, the Hollywood melodrama is grating enough that it may be worth skipping altogether.

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