Set during World War II, a story seen through the innocent eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a concentration camp, whose forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence has startling and unexpected consequences.
Young Bruno lives a wealthy lifestyle in prewar Germany along with his mother, elder sister, and SS Commandant father. The family relocates to the countryside where his father is assigned to take command a prison camp. A few days later, Bruno befriends another youth, strangely dressed in striped pajamas, named Shmuel who lives behind an electrified fence. Bruno will soon find out that he is not permitted to befriend his new friend as he is a Jew, and that the neighboring yard is actually a prison camp for Jews awaiting extermination. Written by
Bruno's parents are named Ralf and Elsa, but in the credits of the film they are listed as 'Mother' and 'Father'. This is a tribute to the novel, in which the narrative focuses solely on Bruno's point of view. See more »
"The story mixes up the German Wehrmacht (army) and the SS (Hitler's paramilitary "protective" forces). While the Wehrmacht was not directly involved in the holocaust (though they committed war crimes and killed civilians), the SS was in charge of the concentration camps. Bruno's father's uniform is a mix of Wehrmacht and SS. The Wehrmacht uniforms were green, whereas SS uniforms were black and had the skull ("Totenkopf") symbol on the cap." Incorrect: the black "allgemeine SS" uniform, so beloved of Hollywood because of its iconographic qualities, was discontinued during the war. On the green 1940-1945 SS uniforms, the black colour was only retained on the peaked cap bands, the collar patches, as underlay for badges and on some varieties of shoulder board pipings. Camp Guards wore copper-brown uniform piping, the "waffenfarbe", denoting the camp guards branch. Just look at the original pictures of uniformed SS guards in the camps from the period 1940-1945. See more »
Mum, what's going on?
Mm, your father's been given a promotion.
That means a better job.
I know what promotion is.
So we're having a little party to celebrate.
He's still going to be a soldier though, isn't he?
[...] See more »
Quotation displayed before the opening titles: "Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows - John Betjeman" See more »
When my son (nearly 12 years old) read the book he was awake until 5am that night thinking about the story and what it all meant; he had some penetrating questions too. A day or so later he said that he thought that it would make a good film, and imagine his delight when he saw that there was a film of the book.
I have taken him to see the film; and was riveted. I think that the style of the film is really that of an old fashioned family film, however the subject matter is emotionally very demanding and all the better for that. It does what good drama should do - makes you think and feel. As the credits ran, at the showing that I saw, no one moved or spoke for a minute or two. The Holocaust is a difficult subject, but to tell a story in such a way that it is accessible to a 12 year is a great achievement.
There have been some comments that the cast speak English (rather than, presumably, German) and that this is somehow a bad thing. What are the alternatives? Either sub-titles or daft 'ello 'ello accents. In some ways the ordinariness of the Nazis and the family points up the horror of what happened that ordinary people can do the worst of things to fellow human beings.
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