After my recent visit to Auschwitz, watching a film about The Holocaust might not seem like such a great idea. However, I remember this film coming out in the cinema, and wanting to watch it – but never quite got round to it. ★★★★★

And thanks to the wonders of Netflix, I have now seen it – and wept! The film is based on the book by John Boyne, and follows the adventures of an 8-year-old boy, Bruno. The son of a high-ranking Nazi, you don’t really get a sense of what his father does and it doesn’t seem to impact on his son and his friends as they play at being pilots (remember using your arms as wings, running around pretending to be a plane?)

The only sing that something is odd is when his father gets a promotion and this upsets Bruno’s life, shifting his mother, sister and father to an undisclosed location. The new house is beautiful, very modern for the 40s and lots of rooms to play in, leaving Bruno to choose his bedroom and the view of the “farm”. When questioned, his father finally explains to his wife the true nature of the new posting. The odd smell… the strange hired help.

And then Bruno goes exploring and encounters the boy in the striped pyjamas, Shmuel. This is where this film comes into its own; the viewpoint of an 8-year-old. In their world, nothing’s nasty, nothing’s fatal, in their world food is found, no-one starves, lost relatives can be found, someone on the other side of a fence can still play games, lying doesn’t have major consequences, summer is endless and life is beautiful.

Or is it?

Whilst we see what is happening around them, their own wide eyed world view is based on what is in front of them, no wider picture, nothing bad happens. And that’s what makes this film unique, the two main characters are children and we see things through their eyes.

When Shmuel loses his father, Bruno offers to help and a simple plan is put in place… with consequences. I wont spoil it for you, but stock up on tissues.

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The two main characters are amazing in this film, understated performances and totally believable. Asa Butterfield who plays Bruno is all wide eyed Arian with an 8-year-old’s simplistic world view. He has all the benefits of being of the right genetic stock, and still doesn’t understand just yet what’s going on, whilst his family can see the other side and his mother suffers a near breakdown when she realises whats going on.

Jack Scanlon plays Shmuel and is so believable, they caught him at the right time, skinhead with missing teeth, he excels in the part as a camp inmate. The script is pitch perfect, the costumes spot on and the sets are believable, having seen the wooden stables the Nazis used to house inmates in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the bunks use to house 2 or 3 inmates at a time, this really is faultless.

Watch this film if you can, read the book, then read up on the subject – get an understanding on this subject. Visit the Holocaust Educational Trust site and support their work:

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Available to buy from Amazon

About the author: Chris Jones
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