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POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
David Thewlis
Vera Farmiga
Rupert Friend
Richard Johnson
Sheila Hancock
Jim Norton
Asa Butterfield
Jack Scanlon.
Directors
Mark Herman.
Screenwriters
Running Time
94 minutes

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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
A child's chilling view of the Holocaust


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Plot
When his father (Thewlis) is made commandant of a concentration camp, eight year-old Bruno (Butterfield) finds himself listless and alone. Then, after an exploration, he meets a strange boy who seems to be wearing pyjamas, sat behind a wire fence. A meeting that will have terrible repercussions...


Review
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
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Tackling the Holocaust takes a brave soul. To turn such tragedy into fiction, however noble your intention, is to lurk over the trapdoor daubed exploitation. Even Spielberg’s Oscar winning Schindler’s List had Shoah director Claude Lanzmann hiss about “kitsch melodrama”. Tackling the Holocaust through the eyes of a child reeks of madness. How do you sell death camps to the Hogwarts generation?


Yet Mark Herman’s adaptation of John Boyne's novella succeeds by granting the story the glint of fable. At eight years old, the prejudice curdling his teen sister is alien to Bruno (Butterfield). So hungry is Bruno for companionship, he sees only a friend in the boy in raggedy stripes sitting across the wire. Shmuel (Scanlon) is just hungry.

If Herman’s style falls prey to the bone-china stiltedness of Sunday TV, it is sticky with dread. His camera rarely escapes the commandant’s house, a modernist castle stiff with its own locks, bars, and a house-slave in lank ‘pyjamas’; perversely washed in a dappled summer light, as if on the edge of a strange dream. Only later do clouds gather.


Both Farmiga and Thewlis furnish their parental roles with real humanity. Thewlis, especially, makes sense of the contradiction in this caring father overseeing genocide. The child-actors look right - Butterfield has the angelic gaze of antique photographs - but their prep-school delivery feels stiff.


None of which prepares you for the ending. Mustering a dark, vicious power, Herman passes out of fairytale into the sickening coils of history. There is an image, of a gas-masked soldier pouring Zyklon B through a rainstorm, so disarming even Lanzmann will recoil.


Verdict
A powerfully affecting and unusual view of the Holocaust.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Empire Star Rating

RE:

L: PureAinmhi I thought this was a fantastic film. I think they could've made it slightly longer and maybe could have shown the two main child actors forming more of a relationship. Well worth a watch and extremely sad. es, amazingly in a era of film where going well over two hours is becoming the norm, this was one film that could have done with another half hour at least. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JohnChard at 04:52, 14 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: An emotional wreck

L: Cruisecontroller SPOILERS! Overall I was very impressed with this film and throughly recommend it although it isn`t perfect. It`s set amongst Germans (apart from the Polish boy in the camp) but noone speaks with a German accent! In fact apart from the actor who plays Bruno`s father who at least attempts a German accent even if he doesn`t succeed everyone not only speaks in English but has English accents like they`ve come from an Enid Blyton or Agatha Christie story. I can overloo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JohnChard at 04:50, 14 February 2013 | Report This Post


Touching, But Curiously Less So Than It Should Be

Touching, yes. Moving, perhaps. Gut wrenching, not really. This is a curious fact, given the subject matter and an ending which should have everyone leaving the theatre or ejecting the DVD in an ocean of tears - but which for some reason doesn't quite achieve that. Perhaps it is the fact that the movie tells the Holocaust story through the eyes of a naive German boy rather than those of his tragic Jewish counterpart on the other side of the fence, but one cannot escape noting that the Auschwi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by magiclips at 13:21, 28 October 2012 | Report This Post


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas Review

A touching and haunting family film that deals with the Holocaust in an arresting and unusual manner, and packs a brutal final punch of a twist. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 11:16, 03 April 2012 | Report This Post


Thought Provoking and Powerful

What makes this film so interesting is that its concept is so unusual. Told through a child's viewpoint this is heart renderingly tragic and its ending is brutal and arresting. Much like schinder's list it is compelling as it draws ever closer to the impending doom. Sure the child actors have a slight stiffness to there acting but they do a fine job with such tough a subject. You would hardly think much of it. Some may disliked the story for feeling manufactured for the purpose of achieving a fa... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 23:00, 30 August 2011 | Report This Post


Some books should remain so

As usual the book is much better. Apart from Bruno, his sister and Pavel the film was poorly cast. In the book Bruno's father ruled the household and would not tolerate any deviance from his demands, his wife included. This was necessary so that at the end of the story the horror of what had happened was displayed by his breakdown. The film didn't really do this well. The book was very cleverly written. It did, as was intended by Boyne, to highlight the ignorance and naivity of Bruno of what wa... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Seamus. Pat. at 13:46, 14 October 2009 | Report This Post


The Boy Who Was In Tears By The End Of This Movie!

A Truly Amazing Piece Of Work. With Great Central Performances By David Thewlis And Asa Butterfielc, This Truly Encaptures The Holocaust Through A Childs Mind. And The Final Camera Shot Blew Me Away. Nearly As Good As Escape From Sobibor. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kermodenutter1 at 12:33, 04 June 2009 | Report This Post


An Alright Movie.

I found the storyline interesting and a lot different from the real world. This movie sort of twists the Holocaust and turns it into a game (in Bruno's point of view). I found that part most interesting about the story is that the whole thing is from Bruno's point of view. A nine year old who has no idea what's going on. Preferably I enjoyed the book more with the cliffhangers and the way its written. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ReeceTumbridge at 20:28, 22 April 2009 | Report This Post


The Boy In Striped Pyjamas

A fairly controversial view of the Holocaust, and although it was fairly engaging it was very poorly produced. Research as to the times and the society were not taken into account, which made it a poor adaptation of John Boynes novel. However, the twist at the end was very well done which, if you hadn't already read the book, you would never have seen coming. All in all, it was really a very average film ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mackaylh at 19:01, 17 April 2009 | Report This Post


I thought this was a fantastic film. I think they could've made it slightly longer and maybe could have shown the two main child actors forming more of a relationship. Well worth a watch and extremely sad. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by PureAinmhi at 18:22, 14 April 2009 | Report This Post


RE: An emotional wreck

I started a thread on this on the DVD discussion boards (it's out to buy on 10th March - currently a Blockbuster rental exclusive), I found it a really poor film with such implausibilities that it ruined any message that ending was trying to achieve. My mate loved the book, hence why I gave the film a try but I wouldn't recommend it tbh. ... More

Posted by losthighway at 10:22, 02 March 2009 | Report This Post


RE: An emotional wreck

An earnest, if slightly implausible, tale benefitting from two very natural performances from the young leads. Ultimately, it's too lightweight to be truly affecting, but it does deserve credit for the ending which, given the subject matter, is both fitting and commendably restrained (6/10) ... More

Posted by MOTH at 09:51, 02 March 2009 | Report This Post


RE: An emotional wreck

SPOILERS!   Overall I was very impressed with this film and throughly recommend it although it isn`t perfect. It`s set amongst Germans (apart from the Polish boy in the camp) but noone speaks with a German accent! In fact apart from the actor who plays Bruno`s father who at least attempts a German accent even if he doesn`t succeed everyone not only speaks in English but has English accents like they`ve come from an Enid Blyton or Agatha Christie story. I can overlook the fact that they... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Cruisecontroller at 14:04, 14 October 2008 | Report This Post


RE: An emotional wreck

An account of the Holocaust as seen through the naive and innocent eyes of eight year old Bruno, the son of the commander of a concentration camp. I haven't seen a more eloquently narrated film recently, the adults will of course fully understand what is going on yet it is appropriate for older children as well. I thought it was a good starting point to educate them on the subject. Unless you've read the book nothing, and I do mean nothing, will prepare you for the ending. An ... More

Posted by smila darcy at 23:08, 11 October 2008 | Report This Post


RE: An emotional wreck

Very powerful and moving little film. It's the only film that I've seen in the cinema that when the credits rolled, nobody moved. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Starscream at 23:06, 11 October 2008 | Report This Post


An emotional wreck

Anyone else man sob? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Angusto at 19:03, 03 October 2008 | Report This Post


RE: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Yeah definitly worthwhile a look see. its somewhat stilted and slow in places but the innocence of the lead and is slow realisation of who and what the boy in the striped pyjamas is well handled.  the ending will leave you emotionally drained... I saw it last night and nobody in the cinema moved or said anything till the credits had finisheds. ... More

Posted by Mr Dead at 12:44, 03 October 2008 | Report This Post


RE: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Is it worth seeing?   My mate went to see it last night and said that it was really good ... More

Posted by dr. salvador at 12:14, 03 October 2008 | Report This Post


RE: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

 Films about the Holocaust are not only tough to watch but tough to sell to an audience. Although some great movies have been made, most notable Schindler List. While that was a document of the horrors of went on, this film deals with it through the eyes of an eight year old, done in very subtle melodrama. The film implied horrors have the fear of dread seeping through every frame from start to finish. Where Bruno (Are eight year old) feels trap in his home with it’s own locks and rules wa... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Braveheartben at 13:59, 02 October 2008 | Report This Post


I watched this yesterday and though it was a very good movie. It does smack of a telemovie at times, but it still adeptly tells the story, without resorting to a load of cliches which the Nazis bring with them. David Thewliss is very good in it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Spookygeek101 at 10:31, 17 September 2008 | Report This Post


Striped Pyjamas

Okay, so the movie is seen through a child's innocent eyes and you expect some 'Introduction to Nazism' dialogue, but that doesn't excuse the scenes Bruno isn't in: Ralf's mother doesn't keep her displeasure of her son's vocation a secret but is told "airing your views in public could land you in trouble." We all know this aspect of Nazi Germany, but the film goes about as if this was the first time Nazism and concentration camps were captured on celluloid and as a result brings nothing new to ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 20:26, 16 September 2008 | Report This Post


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

i feel lightfoot's review is a little harsh and comes purely from an adults perspective - in which case they are about spot on in my opinion. BUT IT IS RATED A 12A!!!! what did you expect? i do believe this film was made with children as well as adults in mind - an impossible task considering the subject matter (it must surely be impossible for any film maker to convey the horror of the holocaust whatever the target audience?). hopefully this film will have been an introduction to the subjec... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by robsadler at 08:46, 13 September 2008 | Report This Post


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

i feel lightfoot's review is a little harsh and comes purely from an adults perspective - in which case they are about spot on in my opinion. BUT IT IS RATED A 12A!!!! what did you expect? i do believe this film was made with children as well as adults in mind - an impossible task considering the subject matter (it must surely be impossible for any film maker to convey the horror of the holocaust whatever the target audience?). hopefully this film will have been an introduction to the subjec... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by robsadler at 08:46, 13 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE:

Was looking forward to this one. Generally getting good reviews across the board, though always with a sense of qualification. Review after review said the ending was traumatic and punchy. I walked away quite disappointed. It's such a toothless film, almost like a telemovie. More than one essay has commented on the questionability of "Disnefying" the Holocaust, and I sorta gotta admit, it feels almost disrespectful to give such a sombre topic such a light treatment.  It's ... More

Posted by Lightfoot at 21:06, 12 September 2008 | Report This Post


Just finished watching this and all I can say is I feel emotionally drained. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by liviclyde at 23:34, 10 September 2008 | Report This Post


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