I watched the movie recently and it left me thinking about so many things. I will share a few with you guys.
So the movie is good and makes us shed a few tears, because, apparently the boys are dead. But when I look deeper into the movie I wonder for whom was I supposed to cry more. With whom should I sympathize more. Since the movie is set in the backdrop of Nazi concentration camps, it should have done more justification to the history. But this movie does nothing but trivialise the holocaust and put the sole focus on a Nazi family and the conflicts the members are facing. In bits they show the condition of a Jew by introducing us to Pavel’s stooped figure and how Kotler treats him.
The boy, Bruno, (the protagonist and the German boy) befriends a Jewish boy named Shmuel who happens to sit at the border of the concentration camp, near the electrocuted barbed wire fence hiding from officers who are clearly not in the vicinity. Bruno shares food with Shmuel and they become close. I don’t know if a prisoner could have sat there for this long without getting noticed by officers who search for an opportunity to torture the prisoners. Anyhow Bruno’s exploring takes him to the solitary prisoner boy who looks weak and tired. Their friendship and the followed perks might have given Shmuel hope and positivity and something to look forward to tomorrow.
Later when Bruno lied to save himself for the fear of punishment, it cost Shmuel almost an eye. He was sad but not ready to loose the only hope and happiness he had there. Bruno decides to make up for lying and letting down Shmuel once by helping him to find his missing papa. Shmuel gets Bruno the prisoners’ uniform and Bruno sneak into the camp. The sites in the camp is disturbing for the boy but they seem much better than what our history says. Some of the prisoners are sitting tired, some are lying down, some are looking out through the window, some are even sleeping on their bed. They all seems to have a lunch break (with or without lunch). Unfortunately the officers whistles to ask people to march to somewhere. Trapped inside the flood of crowd Bruno and Shmuel holds the hands of each other and follows the orders. They were lead to the gas chambers and the rest is predictable. Bruno’s parents frantically search for their son and find that he has gotten into the camp. Realizing the worst possibility the mother cries out clutching her son’s clothes and the father wails unsure of what to do. The tragedy focused in the film is the accidental death of the German boy who happened to get trapped in the gas chamber with hundreds of Jews including Shmuel, both being unaware of what was waiting for them. The movie ends at the faces of devastated parents. Because of such an ending I am confused about one thing. Who is the boy mentioned in the title? Is it Shmuel who is forced to wear the striped pajamas all along because he happens to be Jewish and thus a prisoner, or Bruno who wore it because he can sneak into camp and help his friend find his father, which he considers, will be a new adventure.
By focusing on Bruno’s death and his parents’ reaction the movie hints subtly at the Nazi’s version of White Men’s Burden whereupon they say how many sacrifices they had to make their country a strong and independent one. May be that was what the director and the author of the book intended right? (Or not, I don’t know ). Nazi or Jew, kids are kids. People are people, if they die on screen I will weep for them. But what I am thinking is who deserves our tears. The mother was crying for the Jews from the beginning of second half of the movie . May be they wanted us to think Jews got their share of tears from the mother, so let’s all cry for Bruno at the end and look how shattered his parents are. Or they didn’t. I don’t know. I am all questions and no answers. I guess I cried for both the kids. Maybe the author/director wanted us to see the death of fraternity or friendship between the two cultures happened during the Second World War. Then again as I said, all these are just my thoughts.