The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
given that movies about the Holocaust are going to be depressing as hell,
and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas most certainly makes for devastating
takes a novel approach to looking at this well-covered and tragic subject -
Nazism and concentration camps as seen through a child's eyes - and if it is
not always successful in this approach, it is still usually
innocent guide to the horror is Bruno, an eight-year-old German boy who must
move with his family when his soldier father gets a promotion. What
the boy does not understand is that dad's new position is as commandant at
the infamous "work camp" Auschwitz.
they move to the country house, the boy starts to notice a strange "farm"
outside his window, where all the people there wear "pajamas." He
becomes curious about the place and despite being forbidden by his parents,
he sneaks over one day and meets another boy his age on the other side of
the barbed-wire fence. Not really understanding the significance of the
boy's imprisonment, they become friends.
meantime, the proximity to the camp is effecting the family in different
ways - the mother is horrified when she realizes what is really going on
behind the fences, the daughter gets a crush on a Nazi soldier and becomes
infatuated with the lifestyle and the little boy tries to come to terms with
what could be so wrong with his new friend.
Holocaust has been covered in so many ways on film over the years that is
difficult to see that there could be new ways to present it.
Therefore, The Boy
in the Striped Pajamas should be respected for finding a way to make
this difficult subject matter palatable for children who may not know as
much about this terrible moment in history.
end, though, seems somewhat misjudged. Beyond the basic fault that it
is difficult to believe that the two boys would be naive or stupid enough to
think it was a good idea to have young Bruno break onto the camp - or that
the Nazi guards would fail to notice someone digging a hole under the
barbed-wire fence - it feels off-kilter for a much more basic reason.
Is the audience supposed to be that much more horrified that the young son
of the Commandant is in danger than all of the other thousands of prisoners
who had no choice but to be there? I understand the dark irony of the
situation, it just seems to undercut the importance of the real victims of
the atrocities. Some people may even consider the situation to be
karmic payback for the Commandant.
while I do not quite agree with how the ending comes about, I do see how it
may very well be the only possible conclusion for this story. There
were no happy endings around concentration camps, just differing levels of
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All rights reserved. Posted: March 15, 2009.