The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

It’s been almost seventy years since the end of WWII and the horrors and struggles are still an extremely touchy subject. Unless the historical significance or the general facts are being discussed, there is a distinct caution used when digging deeper into the depths of the lack of humanity that occurred. An often overlooked aspect is the German children who were aware of the situation, but more often than not, unable to comprehend the severity or consequences. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas does not shy away from the gritty details and wonderfully portrays the life of a Nazi Commandant’s son.


Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is forced to move from Berlin to a more rural town due to his father’s (David Thewlis) military commitments. The new home turns out to be walking distance from a concentration camp, which gives Bruno and his sister a rare opportunity to learn the depravity of the war firsthand. As Bruno befriends Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a Jewish boy in the camp, he begins to notice the strain the war is placing on his family and the Jewish population.

The best feature of this film is the incredibly difficult question it poses: How do you explain the story behind the “striped pajamas” to an eight-year-old child? Bruno’s mother (Vera Farmiga) struggles with this issue throughout the film once she learns that the concentration camp is in such close proximity to their home. She begins to discover that the smoke her children see and smell so distinctly is a result of burning bodies just over the small river. Since Bruno is eight, he is a naturally curious child and asks questions that have answers unfit for a child. Consequently, when he does not receive answers, he explores even further.

Causing even more tension is the indoctrination of Bruno’s sister as she begins to embrace the Nazi cause from their zealously anti-Semitic homeschool teacher and a young lieutenant. This all leads to the mother’s breaking point and Bruno’s desire to escape a deteriorating household.

The film does well in keeping our young hero pure and innocent despite the growing intensity around him. His conversations with Pavel (the Jewish housekeeper) and Shmuel are telling as to how he interprets the hints of inhumanity around him. The constant references to former occupations of the Jews around him have minimal effect other than him learning a new fact. The idea of their lives being stolen from them never even crosses his mind, and rightfully so considering his age.

Viewing such a monstrously traumatic event through the eyes of a child is an interesting and refreshing take on such an important topic. The constant question of how the anti-Semitism even started is briefly touched on with the indoctrination methods and the inability of dissenters to speak without facing punishment.

My favorite part of the film is the end (if you’ve seen it read on before you judge me too harshly). As mentioned, Striped Pajamas does not shy away from the brutal reality of the situation for Shmuel or Bruno. From the beginning Shmuel is destined for a premature demise and Bruno is destined to become a member of the Hitler Youth. As Bruno becomes less and less sheltered, the audience follows. The film drags at moments, but everything is paid back in full with the incredibly gripping final sequence. I strongly recommend a viewing, but make sure you queue up something light-hearted as a chaser.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Let me know what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: