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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Updated on February 4, 2013

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Director: Mark Herman

Writers: John Boyne, Mark Herman

Cast: Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Rupert Friend, Vera Farmiga, Jack Scanlon

Synopsis: Young Bruno lives a wealthy lifestyle in prewar Germany along with his mother, elder sister, and SS Commandant father. The family relocates to the countryside where his father is assigned to take command a prison camp. A few days later, Bruno befriends another youth, strangely dressed in striped pajamas, named Shmuel who lives behind an electrified fence. Bruno will soon find out that he is not permitted to befriend his new friend as he is a Jew, and that the neighboring yard is actually a prison camp for Jews awaiting extermination.

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material involving the Holocaust

Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows

As a wise man once said, life isn't always as black and white as many of us would like to believe. Sure, when we're younger, everything seems so much simpler, as the lines between right and wrong are well defined. Unfortunately, as we get older, we come to learn that society isn't always as easy as we'd like it be. But most of all, we come to realize that not everything in life is fair, and that sometimes what we may perceive as pure may turn out to be evil and corrupt. That sometimes behind every "white lie", there lies a shocking reality of the cruelty that human nature has shown over the years. WWII was arguably one of the darkest times in our history, as it not only showed the insurmountable depth of how far man's cruelty could go, but it also led to the murder of many innocent civilians; particularly the Jews.

Be warned, this film isn't for the faint of heart, but it's definitely worth seeing. The film centers around a young boy named Bruno (Asa Butterfield), who ends up moving near a Nazi prison camp for Jews after his father gets his promotion within the German military. At first, Bruno encounters various troubles adjusting his new life out in the country, as all his friends are thousands of miles away. However, Bruno being the adventurous kid that he is, decides to go out to explore the place when his parents aren't around watching him; which leads him to meet a young Jewish boy named Schmuel (Jack Scanlon). Schmuel is essentially a prisoner within the Nazi concentration camp that Bruno's father runs, but he forms an unlikely friendship with Bruno upon their encounter. Bruno, like all youths, sees the world as pure, and doesn't often see that the work his father does is actually an act of human cruelty rather than a benefit for all of Germany.

From here, the boys become the best of friends, even though society tells them they're not supposed to be. Without giving away too much from this movie, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is a touching story of tragedy, friendship, lies and betrayal. Showing us that sometimes life isn't always as clear as we'd like it to be. That sometimes what society tells us is pure and innocent, it could turn out to be something evil and unjust.

As some of my readers know, I usually make it a point to never get emotional during movies, nor cry during them either. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean that I'm heartless or anything. But, after watching so many films, you tend to realize that most of them use the emotional factor to disguise a horrendously written cliched story like "Free Willy", for instance. However, every once in a while comes a film that almost gets to me, and this happens to be one of those rare films. No, I wasn't sobbing like a baby while watching this, but I was saddened by the tragedy of this movie; along with it's horrific ending. If there was ever a film that further demonstrates the depth of human cruelty in society, then "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" certainly hits it's mark well.

The characters were well written, and deep enough for us to become fully invested in them. And unlike most Hollocaust films, the world wasn't painted as simply being black and white, and how sometimes the things we think are good can often be nothing more than a lie to cover up a harsh truth. Where do the lines between one's patriotic sentiment end, and the compassion for all of mankind begins? When does it ever stop? Why do we judge others for being a different religion or race? Not only does this film touch upon all these queries, but it does so with perfection.

Indeed, I don't think you'll come across a more emotionally powerful film than "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas", as it's one of those rare films that will touch your heart and never let it go. Sure, there's some movies that play with the emotional strings of the audience, while going over the top like "Braveheart", but this movie never does. No, it's surprisingly well grounded for it's emotional impact it delivers; which makes it that much more of a delight to see.

Although I think some viewers might be turned off by the film's obvious subject matter, and tragic ending. However, if you're willing to give this movie a chance, then you might find it's arguably one of the best dramas ever made.

Seriously, I can't say enough good things about this movie, as everything seemed fairly well orchestrated. Mark Herman does an excellent job establishing a light hearted tone, at the beginning the film, to capture Bruno's innocence, and he does an even better job as the film gradually shifts it's tone to be a bit darker, to reflect how Bruno slowly starts to see the cruelty of how reality can be. Plus, it does help when each actor compliment each other perfectly rather come off as bland stereotypes. As I stated earlier, this film isn't for the faint of heart, but it's definitely worth seeing.

Overall, I can't say this is the greatest drama that I've ever seen, but it's definitely up there among the great ones, as it would probably make my top five if I did have a list for it. In the end, I'd give it a four out of four. Although the story tends to weigh heavily on the emotional side towards the ending, it's definitely worth checking out, as it's one of those rare movies that will not only touch your heart, but it'll do so without overplaying a lot of typical Hollywood cliches. No, Mark Herman and his crew are focused on giving their audience a genuine story, and this film fails to disappoint.


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    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 4 years ago

      Yeah, that's true. I think the fact that the filmmakers behind this movie didn't shirk, when it came to showing the harsh reality that went on back then, it only makes the drama more sad and sympathetic towards the Jews than anything else. At least, I think so.

      Anyways, I appreciate you stopping by again Paradise, as it's a pleasure as always to see you. :)

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      Terrific review for a terrific movie. I know people don't like the ending. It was real. The things that happened were terrible. I often think movie makers shirk reality to make an ending that the audience is happier with. As you noted, Steven, THESE filmmakers didn't!

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 4 years ago

      Yeah it does, as it wouldn't surprise me if the book is a lot different than the film. however, i wouldn't know, as i never read the book. anyways, thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts with us.

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 4 years ago from Glasgow

      This is a great film, but I think to read the books creates a completely different view to what the film does. The book seems more graphic, if that makes sense! I love the movie though, such a sad ending!

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 6 years ago


      Your welcome, and thank you for stopping by to read my hub. Yeah, this truly was a great film in it's own right. It's kind of a shame that it's not more well known, as it truly is a great film.


      Thanks jlava. I'm glad you liked the review and the film. :)


      Thanks Carl. I appreciate the compliment, and for taking the time to read one of my reviews. Yeah, after seeing this movie, I have to go on record to say that this is arguably one of the best dramas that I've ever seen. Seriously, it has almost anything and everything you could ask for in a drama and then some. Anyway, thanks for stopping by again. :)

    • Jlava73 profile image

      Jennifer Vasconcelos 6 years ago from Cyberspace and My Own World

      Excellent review! This was one of the saddest movie I've seen, on level with the Pianist.

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 6 years ago

      Ahhhhhh.... This was a beautiful movie. I'm glad you did this one, it's one of my favorites. Keep up the good work as always. Voted Up, Useful, Awesome, Beautiful, and Interesting :)

    • profile image

      JBunce 6 years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

      This film really surprised me on quite a few levels. Not to mention providing a lot to think about afterwards. Glad you got to see it, and thanks for the insightful comments.