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Ah, you just have to love little boys. They are a lot to handle. Moms stress a little because of their shenanigans. One thing they cannot do is ignore a chance to explore what is around them, not knowing that a little bit of exploring. 8-year-old Bruno, the son of a high ranking Nazi soldier, loves to read adventure books and explore the outdoors. Just like a normal 8 year old kid right? The movie starts right as the family packs up in Berlin and moves to a house by what Bruno thinks is a farm.
Bruno does not understand what is happening in the world around him. He does not understand why his sister changed her room around and put up posters of Nazis. He does not understand why she had gotten so aggressive since the move. Bruno meets a “farmer” by the name of Pavel. Pavel was a doctor before he was forced to be a “farmer.” Bruno does not understand why someone like Pavel, give up his doctor career just to cut potatoes in the kitchen.
You can really see the frustration of Bruno when his mother commands him to not go anywhere outside of the yard. You can just see the curiosity in Bruno’s face. He wants to explore and check out that “farm” behind the house. He thinks the “farm” out back must be full of so much fun. Bruno thinks that this is his chance to actually like the new home they moved in to. The life indoors become too much for him to accept. Bruno begins to sneak off into the back where he sees the way. The facial expression Bruno made when he saw a way to the “farm” was priceless. It was like he saw a way to freedom. He runs through the forest to the “farm,” where he meets Shmuel, The Boy in the Pajamas who lives behind an electrified fence.
Bruno’s mother is fairly patient with Bruno and his anger about the move. She tells Bruno that staying in the house doing nothing is not going to make things any better. Bruno somewhat agrees and tries to do a little more. It is just hard for a little 8 year old boy like Bruno to just adjust to his new surroundings when all he knows is to have friends and play.
Despite the adults around him hate Jews, Bruno learns to see both Shmuel and Pavel through the of his own experience with them. While his friendship with Shmuel would not be called brave because Bruno is bored and sees Shmuel as the only friend around. While Bruno is at first scared to join his father’s side and the hateful opinions of his friends, he then realizes that something is not right. He begins to question if his dad is a good dad or not. When Bruno sees Shmuel in the house, he asked him, “How is your dad? Is he a good dad?”
One day, Shmuel’s father goes missing at the “farm.” Bruno offers to help to find his dad. Bruno states, “It will be like an adventure!” Shmuel gets another pair of “pajamas” for Bruno. Bruno then digs a little pathway under the fence just enough to where he could to the other side. When Bruno gets to the other side, he quickly sees the difference of the two lives. Bruno thought this would be all fun and games, but when he saw enough to become scared, he gathers himself to go face to face with his fears in order to help his only friend out.
This act is somewhat like payback, in a way, since Bruno turned his back on Shmuel earlier. He lied in a way that Shmuel is accused of being a thief and was beaten by a Nazi soldier.
Elsa’s lack of knowledge about what is going on in Germany is less forgivable than her son’s. It looks like she is choosing to stay oblivious to what is going on behind the house in that “farm.” But when she finally realizes that her own spouse is in charge of all the killings and kidnapping of these innocent people, she begins to go against him. She just could not take it anymore. She decided that it was best for her to leave and return back home with her children.
While questioning where duty to one’s country ends and the distinction between right and wrong begin, the film winds these themes together to teach a powerful lesson about equality. The acts of prejudice are shown to be based on the hatred. And it’s supplemented that everyone has the ability to choose what is right, even when everyone else is not on our side.
Set against the terror of the Holocaust, Bruno’s inexperienced spirit looks much more innocent. The boy’s inability to understand the prejudice and his inability to see Jews as real human beings. There has been a huge plot twist in the film. This is one thing that I really tried to keep out of the review so I could let you guys see for yourselves. This plot twist shows that the consequences of evil behavior eventually affect all those involved.
Beyond this, Elsa’s role may serve as sobering testament against self satisfaction. After she blindly follows her husband to his new job, she struggles with her own thoughts toward Jews but does absolutely nothing to help them. The way she is conforming should definitely remind us of our own absence in other situations. It challenges us to fight for everything we believe in and stand up for those who do not have the ability to stand up for themsevles.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which is based on a book by John Boyne, also shows all of us how powerful words and images are. Bruno, who likely represents thousands of his peers, doesn’t always know what to think of his father’s new job. I have heard many times growing up that if history is forgotten, it is often repeated. So perhaps the best thing about the film is the fact that it did not need any of the gore and bad violence like every other film. In fact, it reminds us about the history of brutality. We should never look past the people who have lost their lives because of all of the hatred surrounding them. Heartbreaking and soul-rending, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is one more piece of the puzzle that ultimately forms the picture of who were as a group, who we are right at this very moment, and who we do not ever want to be.
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