Movie Summary of "The Boy in Striped Pajamas"

by Jacob Reis, Demand Media Google

    Debuting in November 2008, the 94-minute, PG-13 rated "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is a movie based on a novel by John Boyne, similarly titled "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas," written about the Holocaust. The film, shot in Budapest, Hungary, was produced by Miramax Films, BBC Films and Heyday Films.

    Beginning

    In "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," Bruno (Asa Butterfield) and his father, SS Officer Ralf (David Thewlis), his mother, Elsa (Vera Farmiga), and his sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) must move to what is referred to as "the countryside" because Ralf has been promoted -- he will now serve as the commandant of a concentration camp. At first, Bruno believes the people behind the fence are working on a farm, and he is forbidden to go near the fence. In spite of this mandate, Bruno goes to the fence and meets a Jewish boy named Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), who he befriends.

    Revelation

    When Shmuel explains the circumstances that got his family imprisoned, Bruno doubts that his father is a good man until he sees a propaganda film which reassures him. Ralf hires a tutor in an attempt to further brainwash the children. Gretel is receptive, but Bruno is not. Afterwards, Elsa begins to notice a strange smell about the commandant, who, believing that Elsa knows what is going on, mentions the smell of burning flesh, which shocks and appalls Elsa until she breaks down.

    Another Servant

    As Lieutenant Kotler (Rupert Friend) argues with Ralf and Ralf's father, he becomes frustrated and assaults the Jewish servant Pavel for a minor accident. Maria (Cara Horgan), the maid, is seen later cleaning up blood from the beating. In the meantime, however, Shmuel has become the new servant. Bruno gives him a cake to eat, but when Kotler sees it, he accuses Shmuel of stealing and Bruno does not defend him. Shmuel is removed and not seen again at the fence until later. Eventually, the kids make up and become friends again.

    Into the Camp

    Since being removed from the house, however, Shmuel's father has disappeared, and Bruno agrees to help find him. Bruno is brought a set of the prisoners' clothes and digs a hole under the fence, through which he enters. Though he has doubts after seeing the tragedy in the camp, they press on in search of Shmuel's father. Upon arriving to Shmuel's hut, a group of soldiers appear and lead them off with a group of other Jews to a concrete building.

    The End

    They are made to undress and are taken inside, purportedly for showering, where they are gassed to death. Ralf discovers that his son is missing too late, and there is a shot of Pavel undressing near the boys, implying that he has also been gassed. The father's dismay and the cry of "Bruno!" are all that Gretel and Elsa need to figure out what has happened. The last scene shows the undressing room with many uniforms, stretching the tragedy of the incident beyond Bruno, Shmuel and Pavel.

    About the Author

    Based in Pittsburgh, Jacob Reis has been writing professionally since 2007, notably as a staff writer and opinions columnist for "The Red & Black." He is a 2013 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grantee in Austria, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and German from Washington & Jefferson College.

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