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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

A story of innocence in a world of ignorance

Starring:

Amber Beattie

Asa Butterfield

Attila Egyed

Béla Fesztbaum

David Thewlis

Domonkos Németh

Henry Kingsmill

Iván Verebély

Jack Scanlon

László Nádasi

Richard Johnson

Rupert Friend

Sheila Hancock

Zac Mattoon O'Brien

Directed by:

Mark Herman

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 94 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom, United States

Every now and then a film comes a long that actually threatens to thaw my heart of ice and the emotional furnace that is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has done just that. A subtle, engaging look at the Holocaust through the innocent eyes of a child that is much more than mere emotional manipulation Oscar-bait.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas follows a family of uber-Nazis in Germany during World War Two. When the SS father (Thewlis) gets a promotion to oversee a Concentration Camp, he moves his family out of the city to a secluded country house. Whilst the mother (Farmiga) and  young Gretel (Beattie) toe the party line, little scamp Bruno (Butterfield) gets bored and goes exploring, only to find the Concentration Camp and an unlikely friend, Schmuel (Scanlon).

Mark Herman’s movie - based on the book by John Boyne – explores a number of interesting themes like child indoctrination, being married to a Nazi and the question of just how much the ordinary people of Germany knew about the Holocaust. The main lightning bolt in this movie however is the slow uncovering of the Holocaust to a previously naive, innocent young boy. The subtlety throughout this measured, well-paced movie is excellent as it never feels heavy-handed and the tension and the feeling that something will happen builds steadily. The climax is a heart-wrenching hammer blow that will haunt you for a long time after leaving the cinema as you can’t quite see the makers going through with it but then they do with perfectly poignant execution.

Butterfield and Scanlon are excellent as the two children as they create a believable chemistry and the writing aids that in making it all seem very genuine. Beattie’s indoctrinated older sister is a nice device as a contrast to the unsuspecting Bruno. Thewlis and Farmiga also excel in giving a sinister humanity to the card-carrying Nazi parents.

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It's Got: Subtlety alongside big emotional moments, great performances from the youngsters, an original take on the holocaust

It Needs: Not to be watched in a marathon with Schindler's List and The Piainist

DVD Extras A pretty bare bones set of extras including an insightful audio commentary, 6 correctly deleted scenes and a functional making-off featurette

Alternatives:

Pan's Labyrinth, Schindler's List, Sophie's Choice

Summary

A heart-wrenching and original Holocaust movie that looks at this horrific event through the innocent eyes of a child. Done with such subtlety and authenticity that it’s much more than just emotional manipulation

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