Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

As those of you who have read this know, I have been adamant on giving the most honest and the correct ratings for each of the new films that I see each year. It is for this reason that I am scrapping my flawed ratings system, which had been played about with from the start of the year. Also, it might hypocritical of me to give this film such a good review to a new film. However, I believe that The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is very deserving in all of the plaudits that it receives. For those of you who haven't read the book, the story goes that Bruno and his family move out of World War II Berlin, in order to facilitate his father's job, later to be revealed as the Commondante of a concentration camp located nearby. Upon discovering this camp, Bruno, not fully understanding the horrors behind the "Striped Pyjamas," befriends Schmul, a young Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence. The first thing I must say that is positive about this film is the acting, in which all involved are at the top of their game. Supporting actors David Thelwis and Vera Farmiga give humanistic performances as the two parents, with Thelwis in particular showing great acting prowess, divided between his loyalty to his family and his loyalty to the Fuhrer. These supporting performances, however good, certainly do not overshadow that of Asa Butterfield as Bruno, delivering a phenomenal performance in his role of a child struggling to understand the world of Nazi Germany, and Jack Scanlon as Schmul, who genuinely looks like a child on the edge of life and death, garners genuinely sympathy from the audience. Also, worthy of mention is that the director of the film, Mark Herman, has created what is in my opinion, the best portrayal of life from a child's perspective since Pan's Labrinyth. Working in close collaboration with cinematographer Benoit Delhomme, they beautifully create some very picaresque moments throughout the film, despite the tough subject matter. The cinematography is all very bright and the colours seem to be all the more accentuated, as though entering the world of a fairy tale. Also, this style of cinematography perfectly portrays the sense of childhood awe and wonder. However, my one major criticism of the film lies not in the acting, direction or cinematography, but the script itself. Granted, there is nothing wrong with the dialogue, but there seems to be a lack of structural depth towards the relationship between Bruno and Schmul. At most, I would say, they meet together in the film around four or five times. For me, I believe that seeing as how they spend so little time together, in my eyes this to me is an unrealistic friendship. And yes, I do know both are isolated from all others their own age group, but for legitimate friendships in which those involved genuinely rely upon, there comes a degree of time before this degree of a friendship is established. Saying that however, despite other criticisms from various sources questioning about how children would not have existed in concentration camps and all that kind of nonsense, it doesn’t really matter because it merely adds to the fable-esque atmosphere throughout the film. The fairy-tale atmosphere is added to by a very stirring score, which while sounding like your bog-standard emotional drama score, somehow seems appropriate and unobtrusive when put into context alongside the action onscreen. Instead of acting as a deterrent, the score proves conjure the correct emotions that the film-makers are looking from the audience at the appropriate moments. Granted, it is not the best score in the world, but it certainly doesn’t bother me. Also, as has been widely publicised and commented on, is the level of violence and intensity throughout the film. The film is violent, but not violent in the way the recent Saw series and Hostel’s Part I and II have been, but what the film lacks in blood and guts it makes up for in tension. Throughout the film, a degree of tension always seems to be lurking in the immediate vicinity, waiting to explode. It is like that of a volcano, laying dormant in wait, occasionally blowing off some steam in minor eruptions, saving the best to last, with an explosion so volatile that the tension/emotional scale just goes completely out the window and you become one with the film. In summary, I believe that this film is one of the better efforts of 2008, with some great performances, a director who clearly knows what he is doing, some dazzlingly beautiful cinematography and a degree of emotional realism which does not pull any punches despite being a 12A. However, I must say that the one large flaw that I mentioned earlier holds the film back from being a genuine masterpiece, but otherwise a highly commendable film.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.7/10

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