The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Where to begin on this one?
First of all I guess we should say that this is clearly not the first film to use the holocaust as its subject matter. Such films are pretty extensive including most famously Life is Beautiful and Schindler’s List.
However what is original about this film is the perspective it takes and by taking this new perspective it shows shear genius in fully exposing the horrors of the holocaust and the concentration camps with in actual fact very few minutes of film actually set in the camp.
The main character of the story is Bruno. Bruno is the 8 year old son of an SS officer who, when he is promoted, moves with his family to run a concentration camp. Bruno is too young to fully comprehend the war and to him it is just one big adventure. This is put into a startling light as one day he goes exploring away from the family home and comes across the perimeter of the camp that his father runs. Across the fence he meets shmall, an 8 year old jew who he assumes works on a farm and wears the striped pyjamas as some kind of game. Their friendship develops eventually leading to one of the most heart stopping climaxes to a film I have ever seen. I wont describe it, you really have to see this yourself.
While Bruno is the protagonist in reality the film is about his father, to use a crude analogy Bruno is to his father what Bart Simpson is to Homer. And the reason it si about him is because of the way the human mind works.
Most of us know the full horror and reality of the holocaust and Dachau and Belsen and Auschwitz, or at least we think we do, I thought I did until I watched this film. I thought I understood the inhumanity and evil that caused it. What I realise now however is how my own mind, and I’m sure many others dehumanised it. Not in terms of those who died, but in terms of those who did it. I had, unconsciously, written off the Nazis and the SS as lunatics, as robots, as these machines that did this. I had never really thought of them as human beings. Yet in this film this camp commandant is shown in his family life. He has a wife and two children, he has parents, he sits down for dinner with them every evening. He is very much a human being.
We see very little of the camp, although the film takes a certain knowledge of it as a given by the viewer. Now we see this human and we know what he does when he is at work. And I think that nothing emphasises the horror of the whole holocaust more than that. It was humans that did this.
I think everyone should see this film, just don’t expect to come out with a smile on your face.