Poignant and touching, 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas' is more than the simple fable-like tale of an unlikely friendship. Certainly, the story of two children from vastly different and opposing social strata is compelling in itself, especially when set during the height of Nazi Germany. But there seems to be a deeper layer to Mark Herman's drama, which is based on the novel by John Boyne, one that's more gripping and hauntingly affective. As a parent, and for most adults in fact, there is a great urgency to protect and shield children from the horrible, terrible things human beings are capable of. It's a deeply ingrained desire to preserve innocence, or at least put off the real world for as long as possible.
After moving from Berlin to the countryside by dear-old daddy, SS commandant Ralf (David Thewlis), eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) hopes to make friends with the children of a nearby farm. He tells everyone he can see it from his bedroom window, but the people living there wear funny-looking pajamas and a horrid smell sometimes emanates from the smokestacks. Later, the little boy has a rather cute conversation after falling from his tire swing with one of those farmers working as a house servant. The man reveals he was once a doctor, and Bruno in all his innocently frank perceptiveness points out the old guy mustn't have been good at it if he was only practicing. This brings a smile to the man's face, but he visibly chooses not to explain his circumstances.Bruno is clearly a very curious and adventurous child, normal for his age. And through all this and his incessant questioning — again, very normal for his age — neither dad nor mom (Vera Farmiga) ever explains what's really going on, a secret which apparently even the old man appears a willing participant. This isn't so much because the boy would fail to understand the politics, but because there is an unconscious effort to protect Bruno from the horrors of the real world. And this brings an even bigger question to mind. If Bruno's parents work at limiting his exposure to the truth of what goes on in those camps, does it mean they know deep inside they are committing something immorally wrong. Mom only begins to question it when her twelve-year-old daughter's (Amber Beattie) blossoming sexuality coincides with a blind faith to the nationalist agenda.
Bruno's naïveté and curiosity naturally intensifies, and he deliberately wanders to the work camp where he befriends Jewish inmate Shmuel (Jack Scanlon). Their conversation not only reveals the privileged boy's desire for intimacy and closeness, which he doesn't receive much of at home, but also that the adults surrounding Shmuel try their best to protect the boy despite their obvious disadvantage. This aspect of the narrative is what I find most compelling, bringing to light a complicated human characteristic — shielding children from the horrors of the real world is to some degree a failure in adults to admit reality themselves. And sadly, it's a futile disservice to kids because it impedes upon their better judgments and their ability to properly assess their situation.
Although the film doesn't quite work in a few spots and descends somewhat into far-too-convenient plot points simply for melodramatic effect, Mark Herman does excellently behind the camera and maintains a well-focused pace. He even offers several interesting visual cues suggesting Bruno living within an ideological prison. For adults, these deeper aspects intrigue and draw attention, but the movie is really more of a children's story by making the Holocaust slightly more comprehensible for younger viewers. If not, then it at least makes the topic a point of conversation. It's a well-made and emotional drama which families can enjoy together and discuss afterwards.The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas' from the Miramax catalog to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc in a blue eco-case. At startup, viewers can enjoy a series of theatrical previews or skip them altogether for the normal menu selection with full-motion clips and music.
Hitting Blu-ray for the first time, ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ arrives with a strong 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1).While not entirely certain if this comes from a remaster or not, the print used appears to be in excellent shape nonetheless. The transfer is clean and consistent throughout with very good contrast levels and resolution. Blacks are deep and accurate with admirable gradational details in the shadows and various scenes with poor lightning. Colors are not overly bright, but rendered precisely and spotless with natural primaries and healthy flesh tones. The picture displays great definition in the foliage and various other household items. The ultra-modern architecture of the house is distinctly detailed, making it plainly visible as a contrast to the internment camp.
Overall, the presentation makes an excellent transition to high-def video.
The emotional children's drama also comes with an admirable DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
Driven by intimate, poignant conversations, the high-rez track displays an open and welcoming soundstage with pitch-perfect dialogue. Though lacking a great deal of activity, imaging remains quite wide with a good sense of presence and a nicely-defined mid-range. There's not much bass to speak of, there's just enough of a low-end to provide the design some weight. The rears are fairly silent except for a few random atmospherics that extend the soundfield somewhat. Discrete effects are generally maintained in the fronts, and James Horner's score makes best use of the lossless mix.
This an attractive presentation for a touching film about a very unlikely friendship.
For this Blu-ray edition of 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,' Lionsgate ports over the same collection of bonus material as its DVD counterpart.
'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas' is the poignant children's tale about an unlikely friendship set during the height of Nazi Germany. Based on the novel by John Boyne, Mark Herman does terrifically behind the camera and features amazing performances by the two young leads as well as the beautiful Vera Farmiga. The Blu-ray comes with excellent picture quality and a good audio presentation. Supplements are rather puny, but acceptable nonetheless. The package as a whole is a good upgrade and fans will be happy with the purchase. Recommended.