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Miramax Films

Cinematic stunner

Movies | Friendship and tragedy collide in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Issue: "Obama," Nov. 15, 2008

Although cinematically breathtaking, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas leaves no room for butterflies and sunsets. It's a raw look at a world where evil triumphs, full of shock value despite the glut of Holocaust film treatments. Adapted from the award-winning novel by John Boyne, The Boy delves into the world of Hitler's Germany through the eyes of 8-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield), whose Nazi father (David Thewlis) has just been appointed commandant of a concentration camp. The family moves from their comfortable home in Berlin to an isolated country house right outside of the camp. Sheltered from the knowledge that it is a death camp (likely Auschwitz) and warned never to leave the grounds of his house, Bruno assumes the camp is a farm where everyone wears striped pajamas.

One day, on a restless impulse, Bruno sneaks out and discovers the boundary of the camp, and a little boy named Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), who is wearing what he believes are striped pajamas. Through the fence, the two boys discover an unexpected friendship-with a tragic destiny.

As Bruno finds himself on a course that can't be reversed, the viewer is stunned to silence by evil's madness and that even innocence can kill. The Boy (rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving the Holocaust) finds room for two poignant biblical allusions: Peter's denial of Christ, when Bruno falsely accuses Shmuel of eating food from his family's table; and Bruno's bond with suffering when he seals his future with his friend's.

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