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A Reader Enthuses Over THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS (Starring David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga)!

Beaks here... Mark Herman's THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS, an adaptation of the novel by John Boyne, has not been on my radar at all (despite the participation of two phenomenally talented actors: David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga). That just changed with this unqualified rave from BridBoyRoss. Here's the IMDB plot summary:
Set during World War II, a story seen through the innocent eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a concentration camp, whose forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence has startling and unexpected consequences.
And here's the review...
Hey there from the UK. I was lucky enough to attend the first public screening of Mark Herman’s adaptation of John Boyne’s “The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas” (the Yorkshire premier a week before the actual premier). First of all I’m going t o try and keep this spoiler free if I can but still be aware that I will reference things, the best way to view this film is totally cold (having read the book I knew what was in store for me). Right, first of all this is a great film, Hermans best by a long shot. It is in my opinion better than the book, it fleshes out the story and the characters whilst never shying away from the holocaust theme. Now if you haven’t read the book then you should know that this is a film about the holocaust, it is a film about an 8 year old German boy called Bruno (the brilliant newcomer Asa Butterfield) who’s father is the commandant of an unnamed concentration camp. The story follows Bruno as he slowly begins to discover what really goes on in the camp (his family tries to protect him from the horror of what is happening) and his blossoming friendship with a Jewish boy, Shmuel (the “boy” of the title). It is not a nice film, it isn’t like the marketing would have you believe anything to do with hope. This is a film that has hopelessness running through it constantly. The 12 year old sister of Bruno slowly becomes a perfect little Nazi (swapping dolls for swastika covered posters and other Nazi propaganda), his father adamantly believes that burning Jews is for the good of the war (one disturbing scene has him explaining how they can increase “productivity” by building new gas chambers) whilst his mother slowly falls into depression as she fights in vain to save her family (morally). Technically the film is excellent, the photography is stunning, the period detail uniformly excellent (ahem..) and the score by James Horner is probably his best yet. Where the film really excelsis the acting, the two young boys (Bruno and Shmuel) are excellent, Bruno in particular. The parents however (played by Vera Farmiga and David Thewlis) and a young officer (Rupert Friend) really shine. Farmiga’s mother is our mature viewpoint; she knows what is going on and though she doesn’t agree with it she balances her family against her morals throughout, she knows that her children shouldn’t grow up near where such horrors are but she also wants to keep a strong family unit. Farmiga is here quite brilliant, she looks like she just walked off a 40’s movie set, she evokes a sensuous, classical feeling of beauty similar to a Hepburn or Bergman whilst giving a performance that I think is oscar worthy (she definitely deserves a nomination at least), she is a woman trapped under a regime she doesn’t believe in but loves a man so caught up in it he is beyond help. You feel sorry for her, the little nuances of her character, you believe her emotions, her depressions, she is arguably the best actor in the film. Thewlis is more by the numbers, he executes the role perfectly but it is only I the final five minutes that he really seems to let go (though the repressive character he is playing doesn’t allow for the real oscar baiting acting that Farmiga is fortuned with). Friend is my personal favourite though, he is a venomous, destructive, hateful but yet conflicted person. He kills Jews, he beats up a child, he smiles as black smoke pours from the camp’s chimneys and yet in one powerful scene you feel sorry for him, you really empathize with him, which I believe is a success of his acting prowess. But if you read the book there's only one thing you want to know, is the ending the same? And the answer is no, its better. Where the book slowly let the boys “discover” what is happening here we see real horror, there is real confusion, real suspense in knowing what will happen but still willing it now to. Herman really pulls no punches with the ending. Though I will not reveal the ending any more than what I have said I will say that the audience I was with stayed silent for a long time after the credits began rolling, no applause, no whispering, just shocked silence. This is an ending that will stay with you for a long time, it will be talked about for years to come, it’s the head in the box, it’s Bruce Willis being a ghost, it’s the devil convincing the world he didn’t exist. This is what people will talk about in hushed tones at dinner parties the world over, really it is a moment of real power, a gut punch that really knocks you for six. You will sit in disbelief at what is happening, but it happens. Now I really can’t heap on the praise enough. I do not know how big a release this is getting in the US but I would recommend seeking it out, really this is a film that should be seen. Take your children but be warned that they wont enjoy it, it will help show what happened but it does not dance around the subject, it is a film about kids, not for kids. If you use this call me BridBoyRoss (shamless plug; search me on , check out my Manhunt films).

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 14, 2008, 4:45 p.m. CST

    Mr Saxon

    by Whitemouse

    I did what you said but now the title of your first post is "Hmmm. I wonder what those "startling and unexpected" consequence...s are?" and I have to wonder why the three dots prior to the s?

  • Sept. 14, 2008, 4:54 p.m. CST

    "Take your children but be warned they won't enjoy it."

    by vic twenty

    Ummm, NO.

  • Sept. 14, 2008, 5:52 p.m. CST


    by chuffsterUK

    It's PYJAMAS!

  • Sept. 14, 2008, 6:45 p.m. CST

    Wow, sounds great

    by Mockingbird Girl

    Thanks for this review. I'll keep an eye out for it.

  • Sept. 14, 2008, 6:48 p.m. CST


    by Mockingbird Girl

  • Sept. 14, 2008, 7:14 p.m. CST

    As an actress...

    by Henryhill76

    I love Vera Farmiga. I even sat through the pretty horrible "Quid Pro Quo" just because she's in it. Not just another pretty face, there's something very intense about her. I look forward to this one.

  • Sept. 14, 2008, 7:23 p.m. CST

    Not a great book

    by Kizeesh

    It's a story with a lot of logical flaws, most primarily I don't buy for a second tha the commandant of Aushwitz's son wouldn't have been rigerously enrolled in the Hitler Youth and wouldn't have it explained to him not to speak to the inmates.<p> Moreover, The German for Aushwitz isn't anything like Outwith.... So hopefully they've chucked that turdish clanger.<p> Sentimental manipulative pap, not surprising since it was published by the guys who put out the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.

  • Sept. 14, 2008, 9:40 p.m. CST

    The big twist...

    by Alonzo Mosely

    It's not real, it is all happening in a Holocaust theme park... Oh, wait, no that was the next Shamalamadingdong movie...

  • Sept. 15, 2008, 4:10 a.m. CST

    Kizeesh its a fecking kids book you numpty

    by bongo123

    for kids, such a pity your "adult" mind cant seem to grasp that..

  • Sept. 15, 2008, 5:03 a.m. CST

    RE: Bongo123

    by Kizeesh

    That's not an excuse for poor premising and dumb plotting, I read kids books often, as I like to keep my head in the market, and it was one which was particualarly bad.<p> Saying it's a kids book and that excuses any flaws shows that you don't know much about children and teen publishing.

  • Sept. 15, 2008, 2:34 p.m. CST

    As a book for Kids dealing with such a

    by bongo123

    horrific topic, it does it extremely well and, lets face it if its reading material for schoolkids in schools, i'd like to think them guys know more about children and teen publishing then you

  • Sept. 15, 2008, 5:41 p.m. CST

    lets face it (insert comma), I'd like to think (those)

    by Kizeesh

    lets face it (insert comma), I'd like to think (those)<p> You spoke of schools, was this from personal experience? If so, it's a shame you didn't pay more attention in english class.<p> But seeing as you aren't willing to accept any criticism of the book, I'll just assume that you're a semi-illiterate teenager with the critical faculties of a gnat.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 4:14 a.m. CST

    Its a talkback forum, like i give a shit about

    by bongo123

    grammar and spelling, I'm just amused that your critiquing a children's book of all things especially one that has won numerous awards and has been shortlisted for many more also your use of "proper grammar like" far exceeds your ability at coming off with a witty retort, then again I'm sure some semi-illiterate teens out there would find the gnat reference somewhat amusing, i can't wait to see what death blow you come off with next :)

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 10:21 a.m. CST

    Hold the front page - I've seen this film too...

    by metaluna

    I would beg to differ. Your kids won't like it because the film has the pacing of a snail. Also, the camp seems strangely devoid of sentries and lack of any activity. Why the wife suddenly turns against her SS husband is unbelievable and the score is in no way James Horners best yet. This is a very contrived film. Interesting but not the masterpiece the reviewer alludes to.

  • Sept. 17, 2008, 7:02 a.m. CST

    I'm just a Grammer nazi

    by Kizeesh

    Awards mean very little. <p>Personally I'll stick with my own opinions and tastes. I will see this film, as I'm quite curious to see quite how bad it is, or if it shares the same problems. As to a death blow.... <p> I think you are *insert insult* and *insert something about insultee's mother*.