Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas DVD

Headline: Unlikely Buddy Flick Makes Light of the Holocaust

When Life Is Beautiful won several Academy Awards in 1999, some wondered whether that Holocaust comedy by Roberto Benigni would open the door for other filmmakers to make light of the tragedy. Well, it took a decade, but it seems that revisionist characterizations of that shameful chapter of human history are in full swing.

For example, take The Reader which not only was recently nominated for Best Picture, but landed a Best Actress Oscar for Kate Winslet. That film was essentially a very sympathetic portrait of a member of the SS. Similarly, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a Holocaust denial drama which suggests that the wife (Vera Farmiga) and children of the commander (David Thewlis) of Auschwitz were somehow blissfully unaware of the ethnic cleansing going on inside the concentration camp.

Based on the 2006 best seller of the same name by John Boyne, the movie revolves around the very unlikely friendship struck between 8 year-old Hitler youth Bruno (Asa Butterfield) and Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a kid his own age who just happens to be interned on the other side of a barbed wire fence and who wears the striped clothing everyone ordinarily associates with prisoners.

Yet, we’re supposed to believe that na├»ve Bruno can’t figure out what the deal is, and that he would become buddies with a Jew and even slip inside Auschwitz through a hole in the fence to play. But anyone familiar with Mein Kampf knows that the Fuhrer had been calling for the extermination of Jews for years before he rose to power, and that Hitler was subsequently able to slaughter 6,000,000 only with the help and approval of the German masses.

So, what are the odds that the man running a concentration camp would fail to indoctrinate his own son in his hateful philosophy? I’d say zero. And why do the all the Nazis here have British accents? How confusing is that?

An unintentionally-comical cross of Hogan’s Heroes and Springtime for Hitler!

Fair (1 star)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes involving the Holocaust.
Running time: 94 minutes
Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, feature commentary by the director and the author, and a featurette titled “Friendship beyond the Fence.”


Melissa said...

Did you actually watch it?

I don't understand how you can say it was comical, intentional or not. The ending actually left me feeling ill and Farminga's portrayal of the mother was heart-breaking. The family was NOT 'blissfully unaware' (particularly the commander and his wife) and that is made clear no more than a third of the way through the movie. You forget that this 8-year-old boy has lived a sheltered life in Berlin as is blatantly obvious in the opening sequence, and it isn't necessarily a given that he would know about the atrocities in those camps. It is unlikely that any mother of that era would want to expose their children to the knowledge of what was going on. As the propaganda clip showed, and this was typical of the time, the authorities wanted people to believe the camps were actually humane.

While the English accents are offputting, they are certainly not confusing! If you honestly find it baffling, I question your general ability to comprehend.

The movie has its flaws. The acting isn't always convincing and the general impression is at times slightly too English, but it has a boyish whimsy which is no less powerful than if they'd turned it into an epic portrayal of Nazi concentration camps. I think you have missed the point if you really do believe is 'makes light' of the Holocaust.

hottubhank said...

Just saw the movie for the first time last night.
Surfing the web this morning looking for more information about the author of the story.
I was complelled to seek out more information, because it was one of the most fantastic stories I have ever experienced.
I am posting here, because I read your review, which is about the opposite of what I thought. The fact that you are a professional film critic floors me. If you don't like this film, what do you like; 27 dresses, or House Bunny?
The only takeaway for me on this, is to expect the opposite from your reviews. The only other critic I use this technique with is Joel Siegel.
In my opinion, if this movie didn't receive an oscar for best screen writer, I have no reason to watch that awards ceremony any longer.