Having watched the film The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and being completely lost for words after watching it, I decided I needed to read the novel that the film was based on to see if there was much difference. I wanted to see how this story works as a novel. It is an easy to read novel, written in third person about the perspective of 9-year-old Bruno. It is the type of book that you can read in one sitting.
Now, back to the film for just a minute. I was so shocked at the ending of this film that I couldn’t speak. The ending came as a big surprise for me (I realised what was happening right at the last minute and barely had time to yell out “NO!” before my worst fears were played out) and I found it terribly upsetting. When it finished Richard wanted to chat about it but I just couldn’t.. I had to excuse myself for half an hour (I distracted myself by doing the dishes) before I could compose myself enough to string together a coherent sentence.
It was while my hands were soaking in dishwater that I realised as hard as it was going to be to talk about this film, it MUST be talked about. The issues in this film were shocking and heartbreaking because they are REAL. The holocaust was REAL, the Nazi’s were REAL and although this is a work of fiction, what happened to 6 million Jewish people is also VERY VERY REAL. So as much as it pained me to think about what I had just watched, and as horrible as it made me feel, this is something that we all should talk about and do not talk about nearly enough.
I must say that I preferred the film. This could be because I did not know the story so the shock factor of what was to happen was quite extreme. Where as while I was reading the book I knew what to expect. The story in the film stuck quite closely to the book, with a few extra scenes added in for dramatic effect. Also some things which were only hinted at in the book , leaving the reader guessing, were shown in detail in the film.
Nine-year-old Bruno knows nothing of the final solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas. Bruno’s friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.
I don’t want to get into the story too much as I don’t want to ruin this for anyone who has not seen the film as I think this is a story that needs to be experienced without any preconceptions (you wouldn’t want to go and see The 6th Sense if you knew the ending, would you?). All I can say is that everyone needs to see this film. Not only because it is brilliant but because of the story it tells. A story that although fictional, is all to true.