I never read this book, but it’s one that after watching this movie, I wish I had. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a nice slow paced film that has sort of a “day in the life of” feel to it. Young Bruno is 8 years old and pretending to be an airplane flying through the streets of Berlin playing with his friends. When he arrives home, he discovers that he has to move away and leave his friends. His father, a German Commander, has to go away because he has a new job and he’s taking his family with him.
At first, Bruno’s new home seems very office-like and cold, until a distant farm he can see from his bedroom window catches his interest. But the farm seems odd. All the farmers are wearing striped pajamas. A tutor comes to teach Bruno and his sister. His sister soon loses all interest in her dolls and turns to the current events – the war and the extermination of the Jews. But Bruno doesn’t understand. He wants to get outside the garden walls and away from the house to go exploring. When he finally escapes, he approaches the barbed wire fence surrounding the “farm” and he finds another 8 year old boy like himself on the other side of the wire.
For me, Bruno’s niavity of the situation is a lot like the way America was during the Holocaust. Bruno is proud of his father, but he has no idea that his father is in charge of an extermination camp. He has no idea what takes place in the camp. He even sees a propaganda film which makes the camp appear like a vacation and Bruno thinks his father is a good man. But unfortunately, commanders in such positions had to swear on their life. They couldn’t even tell their wives what was happening. We see this in the movie as the relationship between husband and wife begins to fall apart when Bruno’s mother discovers what is happening after she asks the commander’s assistant about the foul smell in the air coming from the chimneys.
In the meantime, Bruno steals food to take to his friend, but he doesn’t know why his new friend doesn’t like to play ball over the fence. Why is it dangerous? And why must his friend always run away when the horn sounds? When his new friend gets a chance to come to Bruno’s house to clean the drinking glasses, Bruno gives him a snack but a guard catches him. Bruno lies and says he doesn’t know the boy and that he stole the food. Bruno returns to the barbed wire fence for several days, eager to apologize, but his friend is not there. Of course, you fear the worst thinking the boy has been killed due to Bruno’s actions, but the young prisoner soon returns. To make up for what he did, Bruno wants to help the boy find his father, but he soon discovers his friendship with the boy in the striped pajamas could have dangerous consequences.
Most of us have been touched by the story of Anne Frank or some other Holocaust story that we read in our history books or saw in the movie theater. This movie will be no different for you. The innocence you see on the screen just in the two boys’ eyes alone will pierce your heart and haunt you. Like me, you’ll probably hold your breath through most of it as if you were walking on egg shells. Holocaust movies rarely have a happy ending, but I’m not going to spoil this ending for you. I’ll just say that you will indeed come away a better person after seeing this film!