It’s not often that I’d say that a film adaptation is better than the book, but to my surprise that was the case for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
I really didn’t like the book, mostly because I thought the protaganist Bruno was rather annoying and frustratingly dim about what his Nazi commandant father did for a living, and that the ‘farm’ next door was a concentration camp. So I didn’t have any expectation that I would enjoy the movie.
However, in the film, the big wide eyes of Asa Butterfield managed to convince me that perhaps an 8 year old could be that innocent, even right up to the end (which I won’t give away). Also, Vera Farmiga impressed me with her portrayal of his mother as she moved from pride to disenchantment to anguish.
Some reviewers have criticised the film for sanitising the horrors of a concentration camp, but I think director Mark Herman has achieved the right balance here, as the whole purpose of the storyline is that it is told from the perspective of a child who has the truth hidden away from him. Perhaps he is a useful symbolic counterpart for all those citizens of Nazi Germany who deliberately chose not to see or to know.