Review of the movie "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"

Sometimes you see a movie that you really want to dislike. This was the case for me with "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". In the last twenty minutes of the movie I hated it. I hated it so much I wanted to walk out of the theater. The impending tragedy that was bound to occur was too much for me and I just didn't want to watch it happen. I didn't leave and I sat in my seat until the end. When I got up, I decided I didn't like the movie. I decided the ending was too easy. But now, a week later, I'm still thinking about it. The ending is still haunting me and I still wonder what I am supposed to think about it, what the moral is, and if it was effective. I guess that is the mark of a good movie, huh?

If you haven't heard about the film, it is about the family of a Nazi officer. The father receives a "promotion" and moves his family from Berlin to a house in the country to be in charge of a concentration camp. The young son can see the camp from his bedroom window and wonders what this "farm" he sees is and why everyone is wearing striped pajamas.

My first gripe with the movie is that they all have British accents. Why? Obviously, we need to be able to understand them, but couldn't they have spoken English with a German accent or would that have made us like them less? Would that have villainized them in our eyes? Because, in order to make the Filmmaker's point, we, the audience, must like this family to some extent. We must understand them and empathize with them, at least the mother and the son.

The son who I think is about nine seems to have never before now heard of Jews. I think that is quite unlikely in WWII Germany, especially after we do learn his father's feelings about Jews. I think he probably would have heard about Jews a lot and been ingrained to hate them as much as the others in the film. Instead, this boy sees past the propaganda and decides his father, teacher, and sister's views aren't correct. I'm not sure I believe this. Brainwashing is too easy, especially for the young. In fact, I think the sister's character is sadly one of the most believeable.

So, what is the point? Are we supposed to feel vindicated that a German Nazi family "got theirs"? Are we supposed to say " See, bad things happen to bad people"? Did the Filmmaker's miss the opportunity to highlight a broader message? Did they forget who the real victims are? Or, is it just a really good movie that makes us think about our own feelings about the Holocaust? I'm not sure, but you should go see it.


Blue Castle said...

Interesting review. I heard someone else say that this was a really great movie. I was wondering if it was what it was hyped up to be. Thanks for sharing. :)

Jen said...

Interesting. I had heard of the movie but didn't think much of it. I get to so few of them and usually see them on cable later. After reading your review and how it stuck with you even though you didn't like it..well now I want to see it. It reminds me of the movie Gone Baby Gone. I didn't like the ending but it stuck with me for a long time. I still think about it.

Wendy said...

Um, this one will go into the category with Schindler's List. Next time I really want to be depressed for hours, I'll watch it.

There's so much in life that is tragic, sad, hard... I'm wanting to see it for "entertainment" less and less all the time.