about a month ago, a bunch of us from ys were able to see a screening of “the boy in the striped pajamas” (which just released the other day). jeannie and i read all the online info, watched the trailer, and decided that we would take both of our kids also (liesl being 14, and max being 10). we warned them that it was probably going to have some stuff that was very sad, or hard to watch. we also felt ok about taking them, because our family has been to the holocaust museum in washington, dc. max understands what happened, and has stood in a mocked-up “shower”, and seen canisters of the pellets used to exterminate jews during ww2. we’ve had long talks about what happened and why.
the movie is stunning. the acting is really amazing across the board, and there are so many fascinating tensions explored. the cinematography is gorgeous.
the movie is about the family of a nazi soldier who gets promoted and transferred from the city to the country, where he oversees a concentration camp. for a time, the rest of the family are partially sheltered from the reality of what is happening right under their noses. but, eventually, the whole truth starts to get revealed.
most of the story is told through the eyes of a boy, lonely in his new rural surroundings, who accidentally befriends a boy his own age on the other side of the concentration camp fence (this is “the boy in the striped pajamas). their friendship is innocent and full of discovery.
it’s the unique storytelling perspective that makes the movie really compelling. and the tension within each character:
– the teenage girl goes from a good, wholesome child, to buying the nazi lie hook, line, and sinker.
– the dad is a soldier who obviously believes in his cause, but — as the months pass by — buries his emotions, and becomes hard and violent.
– the mom is, perhaps the most tormented, starts with a complacency, but grows repulsed by the work of the nazi concentration camp, and ultimately has a break down of sorts.
– and then, there’s the little boy. innocent and precocious, spoiled and inquisitive.
there’s not much overt violence in the movie — just a lot of implied violence. and the tension mounts and mounts until you realize at the credits that you haven’t been breathing. in fact, when the credits started to roll, no one in our whole theater moved. we were all stunned, and moving felt like a betrayal or trivialization of what we’d just seen.
the movie was a bit intense for max. i had to talk him through several parts; and, since it was so made, had to remind him that, while this kind of thing really did happen, these characters were just in a movie.
afterward, we had a long talk about it. all of us were glad we’d seen it, and liesl and max both talked about how much it made them think. jeannie wasn’t sure we should have brought max; but i felt like it was an important story for him to know, even if it was somewhat painful, and made him experience strong feelings. he did have to sleep with us that night, incidentally.
i highly recommend this movie. and, it would be great to take teenagers to see. my asst, linda, is a high school small group leader, and brought all the girls in her group. they had quite the conversation about hate, belief, and christianity after the film!
the boy in the striped pajamas on imdb
here’s the trailer: