Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

A subtle performance with a landmark crescendo...

During World War 2 Bruno (Asa Butterfield), a German of eight years, leads a somewhat sheltered life in the comforts of wealth in Berlin. When Bruno's father (David Thewlis) is promoted to a high ranking officer of the Nazi regime, Bruno and his family have to relocate to his father's new post, which happens to be nearby to a concentration camp. After many frustrating days of boredom Bruno journeys to the concentration camp, thinking it is a farm, and starts up a friendship with Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a Jewish boy.

From the very start the story is displayed in a very linear and uncomplicated fashion. There is no extravagant storytelling, no attempts to make the story more than it is. However this is not to say that the film is devoid of depth, because it has plenty and can stir up many symbolic and thematic explanations which help enrich the viewing. But the simple process of the story is more the director's attempt in keeping with the innocence of Bruno to help relate the viewer to him. The reason this is perhaps done is because while the film is relatively faithful to the original novel, many details have been altered. One such is the literary device of a process of discovery from the reader into the true context of the story just as Bruno begins to learn more of the real world. As such the film adaptation will inevitably make it more difficult for the viewer to relate to Bruno because we become the out-group to his innocence. The simple storytelling works though it could have been more complex, including many details that were omitted. But the film's crowning moment comes in its final 15 or so minutes in what is a harrowing, emotionally poignant affair, and perhaps one the most draining, yet overwhelmingly crafted endings ever to grace cinema. It alone is worth the admission of seeing this film. Authenticity also becomes a slight problem once again in regards to how the concentration camps would have actually worked, but this is never the point as the film bases itself merely on thematic elements.

The level of acting is not astounding by any means. But it is generally favourable. Each actor and actress seems to aptly suit their respective character, but Butterfield must be commended for doing a great job of making the innocence of his character appear so real. It must be said that none of the characters speak in a German accent though they are portraying Germans. While this seems like a setback, it really is not much of an issue as it does not make the experience any less riveting as it already is, but for those truly adamant on authenticity they might be a little disappointed.

There is no sex, nudity or language. Violence is more figurative then literal as the film's subject matter pertains around a concentration camp. The final scene is haunting though not visually shown. While the PG-13 rating is apt, it is difficult to think that any child at that age could truly comprehend the film's content.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a cinematic wonder which easily deserves a watch from any avid moviegoer. While there are a few niggles, none of which truly affects the overall quality unless you allow it to do so, the film is laden with reasonable acting and story-telling at it's very best with director Mark Herman cementing this with a conclusion so filled with brilliance that it is difficult to think of anything of late that quite matches it. In fact there are few films of late which can even match the cinematic wonder that is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.


Screen date: 20 November 2008
Release date: 05 December 2008

Available on Channel24


Farzan said...

Saw the trailer for this in theaters. Looks very interesting and worth watching. Glad it turned out great judging from your review

Watch Movies said...

This is the first film I have ever seen in which the whole audience were silent from beginning to end, and then, when the film ended, not a single person moved for a long time afterwards.