The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (Asa Butterfield, Vera Farminga, David Thewlis) 2008

Posted: December 10, 2012 in Drama

boy in striped pajamas

Bruno (Butterfield) is a happy eight year old boy.  He lives in Berlin and enjoys playing with his friends.  Bruno’s father Ralph (Threwlis) is a high ranking officer in the army of Nazi Germany.  Ralph has just gotten promoted and decides to move the family away from Berlin, Bruno vehemently objects, he will miss his friends, and all the fun he used to have in his old house in Berlin, but he reluctantly agrees to go.  In his new house, Bruno sees what he thinks is a farm, and an old man named Pavel (David Heyman) who bring over vegetables, Bruno thinks he’s a farmer.  Bruno immediately starts asking questions of his mother Elsa (Farminga), What do they do on that farm?  Why do they wear those funny striped pajamas?  Elsa ignores the child’s questions and tells him to go play outside.


Bruno wants s swing made out of a tire, so Lieutenant Kotler (Rupert Friend) orders Pavel harshly to get a tire and make the swing.  Bruno sees smoke coming from the farm’s chimney , and wonders what they burn there, as he thinks about this Bruno falls and skins his knee.  It is then when Bruno learns that Pavel is a doctor, why would a doctor change jobs to peel potatoes, he wonders, but he never gets an answer.  Time passes and Bruno is bored, he still has no friends to play wiith and plays checkers by himself.  Bored, Bruno decides to visit the farm, and befriends a boy named Shmuel, (Jack Scanlon) Bruno can’t understand why Shmuel is kept behind barbed wire, but he learns from his sister Gretal (Amber Beattie) that Jews are evil, and Jews and Germans can never be friends.  Gretel’s been thoroughly indoctrinated by her German tutor, Herr Liszt (Jim Norton) Despite all the anti-Jewish propaganda that Bruno hears, he continues to see Schmuel.  Finally, Schmuel comes to Bruno’s house to clean glasses.  Bruno is happy to see Schmuel, and gives him food, Lieutenant Kotler confronts Schmuel about the food and Schmuel says that Bruno gave it to him, Bruno lies and tells Kotler that Bruno stole the food, and double-crosses Schmuel.  Feeling horrible for lying, Bruno tries to visit Schmuel three more times, to no avail.  Bruno finally sees Schmuel, who tells Bruno his father is missing.  Bruno and Schmel hatch a plan to find Schmuel’s father?  What are the results of the plan?  What happens to these two boys?


This is an exceptional film.  It is a Holocaust movie, without doubt, but it is told from a children’s point of view.  And it is the childlike innocence of Asa Butterfield and Jack Scanlon that this movie is so poignant, and affecting.  The Germans are not played  here as simple bad guys Ralph’s mother opposes the Nazis, and is never heard from again, Elsa deplores the mass killings at the concentration camp and when she finds out what goes on at the camp, it drives a permanent wedge between her and Ralph. Even the super patriot Kotler is questioned by Ralph about why his father left Germany for Switzerland before the war started.  Everyone but Ralph and Gretal are conflicted by their treatment of the Jews, and when the final horrible climax of this movie came to pass, I wept, like a baby. The acting is superb, by the two young leads, but also by Farminga, who wants to be a supportive wife, but can’t countenance her husband’s participation in this bloodbath.  Thewlis is good as well as an amoral bureaucrat, doing his duty for his country.


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas See it.



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