The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Watch The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

"Lines may divide us, but hope will unite us."
  • PG-13
  • 2008
  • 1 hr 34 min
  • 7.7  (242,273)
  • 55

SS officer Ralf (David Thewlis) and his wife Elsa (Vera Farmiga) move from Berlin to the countryside with their children, twelve-year-old Gretel (Amber Beattie) and eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield), after Ralf is promoted to commandant of a Nazi concentration camp, implied to be Auschwitz. There, confined to front grounds of the family's new home, without friends, Bruno craves companionship and adventure, and disregards his parents by sneaking into the back courtyard and through a window in the outer wall, where he treks through the woods, and emerges at an isolated, unguarded corner of the concentration camp, which he initially believes to be a farm. There, he befriends Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a boy of the same age. Bruno returns frequently thereafter, bringing Shmuel food and playing games with him through the barbed wire fence. Shmuel gradually reveals to Bruno the truth of what is behind the fence, telling him that he and his family have been imprisoned, and forced to wear the "striped pyjamas," because they are Jews, although Bruno does not understand the significance of this at first. Bruno and Gretel's soon get a tutor, Herr Liszt (Jim Norton) who in reality feeds a diet of antisemitism and nationalist propaganda. In response, Gretel becomes increasingly fanatical in her support for the Third Reich, covering her bedroom wall with Nazi propaganda posters, and flirting with Lieutenant Kurt Kotler (Rupert Friend), her father's subordinate, as her budding sexuality becomes fixated on the ideal of the German soldier. Bruno, however, is skeptical, as all of the Jews Bruno knows, Shmuel and the family's servant Pavel (David Hayman), who had once mended Bruno's knee after he cut himself, do not resemble Lizt's teachings. He also witnesses savage, senseless acts of brutality that conflict with the propaganda ideal of military heroism, when Pavel accidentally overturns Kotler's wine glass at the table, prompting the furious officer to insult and then beat Pavel. After this incident, the maid, Maria, is seen cleaning up blood, suggesting Kotler killed him. After this incident, Shmuel is sent to the commandant's home to clean the house's glasses. Bruno, unaware of the likely consequences, gives him some cake. When Kotler sees crumbs on Shmuel's lips, and accuses him of stealing, Shmuel tells the officer that Bruno is his friend, and Bruno gave him the cake. Frightened of Kotler, Bruno denies knowing Shmuel and claims that he was already eating the cake when he came in. Kotler informs Shmuel that they will 'have a little chat about what happens to rats who steal.' Bruno does not see Shmuel for several days, and when he eventually turns up at the fence, he has got a swollen black eye from Kotler. However, he forgives Bruno, with the two reaffirming their friendship by shaking hands through the electrified wire fence.

When Kotler absent-mindedly remarks on the stench from the crematoriums, Elsa realises that Ralf presides over an extermination camp and not a labor camp as she has been led to believe. She angrily confronts Ralf over it, and eventually, they decide that Elsa will take the children to Heidelberg to stay with their aunt. The day before Bruno is due to leave, Shmuel reveals that his father has gone missing in the camp. Seeing an ideal opportunity for a final adventure, Bruno digs a hole beneath the barbed wire the following morning, changes into prison clothing that Shmuel has stolen for him, and enters the camp to help Shmuel find his father. Inside, Bruno is horrified by what he sees: the dehumanization, starvation, and sickness; the very antithesis of the Theresienstadt-esque propaganda film that had shaped his prior impressions. While searching for Shmuel's father, they get intertwined with a group of inmates going to the gas chambers. Back at the house, Bruno's absence is noticed, and Elsa bursts into Ralf's meeting (which, ironically, is discussing the possibility of increasing the capacity of the crematorium), telling him that Bruno is missing. After Gretel and Elsa discover the open window Bruno went through, Ralf and his guards enter the camp to find Bruno, while his wife and daughter follow Bruno's trail. In the gas chambers, everyone there, including Bruno and Shmuel, is told to remove their clothes for a "shower". Along with the other Jews, Bruno and Shmuel are put into the gas chambers and then take each other's hands. In the commotion, a soldier pours some Zyklon B pellets into the chamber. At that moment, Ralf and his guards arrive at the chambers, too late to save Bruno. Hearing Ralf's anguished cry of "BRUNO!!" Elsa and Gretel, realising what has happened, break down over his abandoned clothes. The closing shot of the movie shows the changing room of used camp clothing, a reminder that the tragedy was not just the deaths of Bruno and Shmuel, but the deaths of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a 2008 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 34 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.7 and a MetaScore of 55.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 34 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.7  (242,273)
  • Metascore