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.
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.