Cover Art and Menus: 9/10
I really think that the cover for the Boy in the Striped Pajamas is excellent. This is truly a picture that explains the entire film, in a poignant manner, as well as presenting a stark, overbearing feeling that runs throughout this story. The cover shows the two young boys, divided by the fence of the concentration camp that is the barrier between these two friends, who are not old enough to understand the hatred and fear that they are supposed to feel for each other. It is a powerful cover.
The menu is a collection of still photos from the movie, and while not as good as the cover, is also powerful and moving.
- Deleted Scenes – There are a total of 5 deleted scenes that run about 6 minutes in length. for the most part I thought that they actually could have been put into the movie (there was one exception). Overall they simply added to existing scenes, and they did not seem to me to be too over the top to be cut.
- Friendship Beyond The Fence Featurette – This 20 minute “making of” piece was pretty standard fare, that covered everything from the children’s acting to the final, heavy ending. It is not a bad piece, and it included a lot of interviews where everyone really seemed excited to be involved in the movie, which was nice. Overall the extras themselves were a bit boring and short in my opinion, but with the heavy handedness of the story, I guess you would not want too much in terms of extras.
- Feature Commentary – The commentary track is stark and hard to sit through. There is not a lot of discussion that I felt was worth listening to unfortunately, and a lot of the time there was dead air. the commentary includes author John Boyne, and the writer/director Mark Herman. There is a lot f talk about differences between the movie and the film, which was pretty good, but the rest was just flat.
The Movie: 7/10
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is an odd film. Basically the idea is to tell the story of the World War II concentration camps through the eyes of an 8 year-old German boy. It is a strange way to view the horrors of the Holocaust, as it presents the insanity of the situation though the innocent eyes of one who doesn’t understand the full depth of what is going on around him. In doing so, it creates and uneasy feeling for the viewer, who obviously knows of the atrocities that occurred, and the ultimate outcome for those involved.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas starts off with Bruno (brilliantly played by Asa Butterfield) finding out that his father has received a promotion. His father (David Thewlis – who I finally figured out has been in some of the Harry Potter films) is actually a military man, and the promotion sees him leaving the city for a new home in the countryside, where he will run a concentration camp. Bruno is whisked away from his friends and transplanted into a beautiful house in the country, just yards away from the concentration camp that he is told is a farm. Bruno blissfully has no idea what goes on at the camp, or what his father does there. Bruno’s mother and sister make the move as well, and the family is shown dealing with the struggles of living in a new area, and dealing with the reality that comes with the concentration camp.
Bruno is told that he is not allowed to venture off of the estate’s grounds, and of course he ends up venturing out in to the woods, where he discovers the farm, which is surrounded by an electrical fence. Bruno soon discovers Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a boy close to Bruno’s age who has his head shaven and wears striped pajamas, like many of the farm workers. Bruno and Shmuel begin to talk, and develop a sort of friendship, divided by the fence. When the whistle shireks, Bruno watches as Shmuel scrambles to get his huge wheelbarrow back to the farm, not realizing the gravity of the situation.
As the boys become friends, Bruno begins stealing food from his house to take to his new mate, and the two play games and talk through he fence, as their bond grows deeper. It is an interesting take on the severe nature of the boy’s plight, and the acting done by the boys is excellent. the innocence at times is forced, but the boys portrayal of the two friends is heartwarming, and sad. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas can be a bit too straightforward at times, and it can seem a bit too polished and convenient, but it does a good job of staying simple, which goes hand and hand with the idea of the boy’s naivete.
I liked the movie for the most part, and the ending is simply devastating. It is much like watching a train wreck, and it is therefore very tough to watch. Once you realize what is happening, it becomes very difficult to witness, and I felt that it was almost too much. for the rest of the movie the pace seems to meander and build, but the ending is very abrupt, which is understandable, but it is a stark change from the rest of the movie.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was a new look at the tragedy that occurred in concentration camps in Germany, and it looked beautiful. The acting was very good also, but the film itself was a bit too straight forward and obvious for me to really love it. I thought it was well worth the watch, but I am not sure that I will sit through the experience again any time soon. Overall, a good movie with good acting, but not a great film by any stretch.
Audio & Video: 6/10
The video for the standard DVD looks good. The cinematography is a bit washed out, but this appears to be done in an effort to give the movie an older feel. I really thought the cinematography was well done, and gave a nice feel to the movie itself. Colors are muted for the most part, which really made things pop out when needed (like Bruno’s striking blue eyes). I thought the 1.85:1 wide screen presentation was sharp and clear, even for a standard DVD.
The audio was decent. Like most of the recent movies I have seen, this was heavily dialogue driven, and did not use the rear speakers much, even though it is presented in 5.1 Surround Sound. I was not blown away by the audio however, and felt that in a few spots it was quiet and/or flat.
I am giving the Boy in Striped Pajamas a 6 out of 10 for value, mainly because the movie lacks any real replay value. The ending was so rough that I can’t imagine sitting through the story again and again. A 6 out of 10 does not mean that I did not like the movie though, as I really thought it was well done for the most part. The story itself, while fictionalized to the point of being unbelievable, is a good one. The acting and the ideals behind the movie are compelling, and while this is not the best holocaust movie, it is a good story and a good movie. I am just not sure this i one that I would watch over and over again. I recommend this as a rental for sure.
Overall Score 6/10