Friday, November 28, 2008

Overwhelming Emotion from a Powerful Film

It seems that whenever I review a movie on this blog, I have a fairly easy time of commenting on it: the quality of the acting and the plot; the emotion of the soundtrack; whether it moved me to laugh or cry in a genuine way. In short, I am usually pretty good about putting down what I would like folks to know about any given film. Tonight, things are different. I'm having a very difficult time putting into words how I'm feeling after A. and I went and saw "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." Many films are advertised as being "a haunting story" and fall short of the mark; this one will stay with me forever.

Put simply, I can only say that as I walked out of the theater at the end of the 90-minute film, I felt emotionally gutted.

The first hour or so of the movie laid out the basic parts of the story (and I'll try not to give too much away): German army officer gets promotion and command of a concentration camp; he moves his wife, eight-year-old son (Bruno), and 12-year-old daughter to a new home on the outskirts of the camp; son sees what he thinks is a farm on the back of their property; son goes exploring the area that he thinks borders the farm and meets a boy of the exact same age (Shmuel) living on the other side of the fence. Both of the boys have a great deal of innocence about them: Bruno doesn't understand why Shmuel doesn't have more children to play with and why he isn't excited about living on a farm, and Shmuel doesn't understand what has become of his family and why Bruno thinks that the numbers he wears on his pajamas are part of a game that everyone is playing.

Both boys realize that they are not supposed to be friends, but friends they become -- a friendship that grows from curiosity and an early distrust into genuine trust and concern for one another. Because of that friendship, Bruno -- in the last 30 emotionally-draining minutes of the film -- takes a completely unexpected step to help Shmuel find answers about his family and because of this is standing with his friend at the heart-wrenching conclusion.

I'll say here that I highly recommend this film and give it a five-out-of-five. The acting is brilliant, the children who play Bruno and Shmuel are amazing, and the musical score by James Horner is in my opinion one of the best he has ever produced. However, everything you may have heard on the television trailers about how this is a film that will stay with you for the rest of your life is absolutely correct. Everyone in the theater walked out without saying a word, and I didn't say anything at all in the car throughout the entire drive back home.

There is absolutely no way, short of having read the book in advance (which I hadn't), that you can be prepared for this film -- for what you see, for how it hits you, and for the emotion that is pulled out of you by the end. It will definitely make a lasting impression.


Bilbo said...

Thanks for the review Matt. Your experience and the reaction of the audience sounds very similar to what I experienced when I saw the movie Schindler's List. I haven't looked forward to seeing a film since I saw Pan's Labyrinth a couple of years ago. This sounds like a film worth checking out.

ipanema said...

i have to add this to my must-watch list. i guess it is a very good one. movies of this kind comes once in a blue moon.

thanks for the recommendation.

rdl said...

thanks for the review - sounds like a must see for me.