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The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE Holocaust may not seem like the obvious choice for a children’s story or movie, but that’s exactly what Mark Herman’s adaptation of John Boyne’s acclaimed novella attempts to do… very successfully.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas may not be easy watching, and is certainly geared towards the more mature child, but it’s a compelling piece of cinema that really does deserve to find a wide audience of every age.

When his father (played by David Thewlis) is made commander of a concentration camp in Second World War Germany, eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) reluctantly travels with his family to his new, secluded home.

After defying his parents and exploring the grounds, however, he meets and befriends a boy in striped pyjamas (Jack Scanlon) who lives on the other side of a wire fence. Their relationship eventually has terrible consequences.

Herman’s film handles the subject matter with the respect and sensitivity it warrants, and never feels exploitative or emotionally manipulative. It doesn’t even refrain from showing some of the harsher realities of German life under the Nazis.

Yet it’s also an emotionally complex film, giving plenty of voice to all of the characters that populate it, and putting a human – if sinister – face to the perpetrators of some of the worst crimes against humanity in history.

As such, Thewlis and Rupert Friend excel as the Nazis, while Vera Farmiga is similarly impressive as Thewlis’ outraged wife.

The boys, too, are suitably naive in their observations and understanding of what is happening around them, and also avoid the temptation to play things too cute or sentimental.

Herman, for his part, stays faithful to Boyne’s source text to deliver an ending that is as unforgettable as it is emotionally devastating. For while newcomers to this fictional tale may be able to anticipate certain outcomes, the film still manages to carry a shocking sting in its tale.

It is, in short, a superior piece of cinema that has plenty to say and which remains with the viewer for some time afterwards.

Certificate: 12A
Running time 94mins
UK DVD Release: March 9, 2009