The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a unique perspective of the holocaust, showing it through the eyes of a young German boy (Butterfield), whose father (Thewlis) is a German officer. After their family moves near a concentration camp, young Bruno makes friends with a Jewish boy named Shmuel through the fence, not knowing what the camp really is.
There is a theme of childlike innocence that flows throughout the film. While at times this theme is over-done and stretches reality, it really hit home with me. The film opens with a swastika filling the screen. As the camera pulls back on a busy street we see a group of children running around pretending to be airplanes firing their imaginary weapons as they run down the street. This struck me as an ironic statement, showing the seemingly innocent way in which children ‘play’ war games, while not fully understanding what war really is.
One element of innocence that caught my eye was a scene near the beginning of the film where the boy is talking to his father. We see that his father has a distinct shadow on one side of his face, which is contrasted with the fully lit face of his son, which to me is a representation of his innocence. As the film progresses, so does the lighting of the boy. As his innocence crumbles, his face no longer has that wonderful glow.
On a similar note, James Horner’s score fit the mood of the film wonderfully. I didn’t notice the music very much at the beginning of the film, which I think was what Horner was going for. There is a definite build-up in the music, both in the volume and also in the mood. At the beginning it is light and more carefree, but nearing the end of the film it builds into a darker, pulsing sound. Sometimes, though, I was reminded more of his other scores, like A Beautiful Mind, which was a little distracting.
I was impressed by the acting of the youngsters, who said just as much through their facial expressions and gestures than they did with their speech. David Thewlis also turned in a sound performance as the father. And it was great seeing Rupert Friend again as well. I first saw him in Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont; I can see this getting him some much-needed recognition.
On a more technical note, I wasn’t very impressed with the editing early on in the film. It was overly jumpy in areas, and unnatural. I don’t know if that was an intentional contrast, but it certainly felt more natural later on.
When the film came to it’s dramatic close, I realized that it wasn’t necessarily a film about the holocaust. Rather, it’s simply a story about a friendship between two boys. The holocaust elements are certainly there, but they serve more as a backdrop to the real story that’s taking place.
Filed under: Film Reviews Tagged: | asa butterfield, critique, david thewlis, film, german, holocaust, innocence, mark herman, movie, mrs. palfrey at the claremont, review, rupert friend, the boy in the striped pajamas, vera farmiga, war