Based on the novel by John Boyne (both adapted and directed by Mark Herman) The Boy In The Striped Pajamas challenges the depth of humanity in a time when it was rarely acknowledged. When 8 year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield), son of a Nazi commandant (David Thewlis), is moved from his childhood home of Berlin to a remote countryside for his father’s new “job,” the desire for a playmate and intrigue regarding the pajama-wearing “farmers” located within walking distance of his backyard, inspires him to pursue a forbidden friendship with a young, Jewish prisoner named Schmuel (Jack Scanlon).
While this film is set during the Holocaust, the story doesn’t aim to make a statement about World War II, the Nazi’s, or the repression of the Jews. If you’re looking for the sequel to Shindler’s List, this is the wrong film. The story shows the inherent power that every child possesses and how that innocence is able to endure one of the most traumatic events in history of mankind.
Hollywood has produced dozens of period pieces featuring the Holocaust, but none of them are told through the point of view of a child – specifically, a German child. The child-proof dialogue and vague explanations given by Bruno’s father, textbooks, and community in an attempt to legitimize Nazi motives reveals how easily the German youth fell susceptible to government influence. As a result, this film was able to humanize the Nazi’s without trivializing the magnitude of the tragedy that is the Holocaust.
While our bold protagonist bounces a soccer ball against a barbed-wire fence, representing a threshold that separates childlike naivety and comprehensible reality – Schmuel is eating breadcrumbs off of the barrack floors and wondering why his grandparents still haven’t returned from their “showers.” However, Bruno’s youthful intuition that overrules manipulation inspires a tale of friendship, loyalty, and the root of human conscience.
The film hits theatre’s nationwide November 14th and is in local theaters now.