Sunday, 17 July 2016

Book vs Movie: The Boy in Striped Pyjamas


I finally got round to reading The Boy in Striped Pyjamas. I hadn't yet watched the film when I read it.
The story is told through the mouth of a 9 year old boy, Bruno, living in Berlin during the second World War. His father is in the military and promoted to Commandant and the family is relocated to 'out-with' (which, whilst it's never confirmed, is presumed to be Auschwitz). The story follows the general struggles of the boy with his relocation to a smaller house than he is used to and having to leave his friends and some of his family to a place where there is virtually no one else.... aside from all the people he can see from his bedroom, that live behind a fence and curiously all dress in the same striped pyjamas. Bruno is a child who longs for adventure and to go exploring and so one day he decides to walk up to the end of the fence where he can't be seen and this is where he meets a boy on the other side of the fence named Shmuel who is also the same age as Bruno and thus begins their secret friendship

First of all, in Auschwitz, I have double checked this and no, there would not have been a Jewish child of Shmuel and Bruno's age in there. All children not old enough to work were gassed straight away. The author has explained that this is merely a story and the characters are entirely fictional and used to try and show the wilful ignorance of the adult Germans to what was really going on. Personally- to be quite blunt- I can see why this book would have annoyed so many people affected by the holocaust. However... I am leaving that aside so I can review the book for what is.

I found this book a very easy and very quick read. I literally read it within the day between going to work and doing my usual motherly duties. The book is written in the same way a boy of Bruno's age would be thinking- it is straight the point and uncompromising. It's brooding and moody from Bruno's frustration for his life changing so quickly. Until he meets his friend. He has no idea what the place that his new friend is from actually is. Shmuel doesn't go to great lengths to explain and whilst Bruno notices things such as how dirty and thin Shmuel is, he almost completely ignores it. Bruno asks Shmuel questions about his life, innocently and oblivious to the conditions Shmuel is in. It's sad for you as the reader to see Bruno ask some unknowingly obtuse questions and for Shmuel to answer honestly, yet succintly and for it to go over Bruno's head.

The movie was obviously not going to follow quite the same atmosphere as the book. The book is told from the eyes of a 9 year old who doesn't really know what is going on and it's all told very light heartedly, but of course the movie needed to go with a more solemn and heavy hearted theme. The plot was still very much the same though some things were changed- Bruno is 8 rather than 9, you don't get much story of Bruno's frustration of leaving his home and not having any friends to play with, you don't see as much of the sister although you do see her becoming more and more following the ways that is expected of her country at the time, Bruno's head was never shaved, their birthdays were not mentioned, the demise of the mother was much better documented in the film whilst the horribleness of the Lieutent Kotler was downplayed. Opting for the mothers story was far more important to the movie for it to flow with where the film was going.
Bruno in the film wasn't quite as ignorant to what being a Jew meant in the eyes of the Germans. He knew they were seen as evil but was still ignorant to going ons that were really happening where Schmuel was living.
The ending was slightly different. I'm not sure if it really had to be... it possibly could have followed the book and I feel it would have been more heart wrenching. I felt more crushed by the ending of the book than I did of the film.

Other than the small changes this was a very good interpretation of the book and stuck to bits it had to stick with and embellished parts that needed it to make the film work. Even with the ending they went with I can see why they chose to have be like that, I think an audience would have found the book ending too frustrating.

I would recommend watching the movie first then reading the book

Very easy read and the movie isn't too horrendous to watch like some other films surrounding this sort of subject may be. 
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  1. Lovely review and great post! I really liked the book better than the movie but the movie is still very good! :) xx

  2. I've watched the film but not read the book. You've encouraged me to do so :) #readwithme

    1. Aw good! As I say, such an easy read and very good :) enjoy! Thanks for stopping by