Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Thumb Way Up: The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Jack Scanlon
Co-Starring: Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis, Amber Beattie
Rated PG-13 for mature Holocaust themes. There was no profanity, nudity, sex, or on-camera violence.

I was a little apprehensive about going to see a movie about the Holocaust given my recent propensity for depression and anxiety. If there's anything capable of pitching me over the edge, it's a movie about the Holocaust.

The subject is something that I have a keen interest in. I often feel as though my soul was in the body of someone who died in a concentration camp. I just have this odd draw to it. So interesting to examine from a sociological/psychological standpoint and how German people and society functioned at the time. For this reason, I am anxiously awaiting the release of The Reader with Kate Winslet on Christmas Day.

Bottom line is that I wanted to see The Boy In The Striped Pajamas in the theaters so I decided to forge ahead and go before it leaves. I'm glad I did. I neither cried nor do I have any lingering feelings of depression. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of characters represented in the film, from the camp-running husband, to the ambivalent wife, to the impressionable girl, and the innocent boy. All affecting and being affected by the war.

What I Liked
• The story. Tight, well told, and an incredible ending that I didn't see coming a mile away.
• Great performances all around.
• Simple locations, set design, and direction that focused the viewer's attention in all the right places.
• The story telling from a child's vantage point. In a way, this allows the serious subject matter to be explored in a different non-threatening way. This tactic was used in Life Is Beautiful which is also a favorite movie of mine. Who knew the Holocaust could be a comedy and respectful of the subject matter at the same time?
• Musical score that was moving yet unobtrusive.
• The Jewish boy is adorable. His name is Schmuel and that reminded me of a crazy-smart engineer from Israel that I worked with years ago. If you use a computer on a network, he probably designed the technology used for the storage subsystem.

What I Didn't Like
• I discovered something unsettling about myself. I have become desensitized to the horrors of the Holocaust. The film makers are able to have the terrible things happen off camera because we all know what happened in concentration camps. For instance, in an early scene, the camera pans up and shows black smoke rising high into the sky above the trees. We all know it's the result of the burning human bodies. I was instantly aware of what that signaled, yet I didn't find it as revolting as I should have. Such a sight should have made me sick to my stomach, angry, and despondent. It did none of that and I'll have to explore that within myself more fully.

If the Holocaust is a subject that interests you, then this is an excellent movie for you. It's not a comedy or a feel good movie, but it isn't a complete downer, either. I give it my thumb way up!


Marc said...

Hi buddy, you know I liked this movie also and I have discussed it before too. I also didn't see coming what had happened at the end and even though I have been studying the holocaust for years now, I was still shocked. I didn't cry or anything but I did remain still in my seat for a few minutes as I genuinely found it horrific. I have many books and videos and have had a fascination with this subject matter for years. Even though I have researched many terrible things that happened during that time, every now and again I can still read about one specific thing and be just as shocked as ever. My hubby and I are planning a trip hopefully next year to Auschwitz in Poland. I am not looking forward to it in anyway BUT there has always been something in me that needs to go and see it for myself. I thought the movie was very moving and I know a lot of people who didn't like it etc but I thought it was very well produced and very well acted. A small movie with a huge story to tell. I also think that any movie which makes sure people never forget this horrible time in our history, is always a good thing.

Anonymous said...

It's on my list, but I can't watch it right now (for reasons which you've stated).