Friday, May 20, 2011

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: An Irony


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a movie which I noticed the ‘pajamas’ not spelled as ‘pyjamas’. If you were to expect any brutal killing or action such as escaping a bomb explosion, tell you what, keep you expectations away. This movie provides another way of looking at the Nazi nationalist propaganda, from the eyes of a child, who see things, at times, more detailed and reasonable than grownups. Besides the movie sees the breakdown of a family as they try to strive through the Nazi regime.

The plot delineated a German family of an SS officer moving to a new location – a new house due to the officer’s transfer to take charge on a ‘labour camp’. The son, Bruno, was upset at first about leaving his friends but as soon as he reached the new house, his curiosity led him towards the backyard and the ‘labour camp’ which he was warned not to go. There, he met Schmuel, one of the prisoner of his age sitting behind a pile. Friendship slowly developed between the two as they see no difference between them and Bruno would sneak food and games over just to spend time with his friend. At home, Bruno and his sister were assigned a tutor, who was actually teaching them by instilling nationalist propaganda. Bruno’s sister was influenced and was very into the propaganda and the ideal of Germans, pasting Nazi posters and even looking up to SS officers. Bruno, on the other hand, observed several contradiction between the beautified ideals of German nationalism and what he saw around – which includes how the Jews in his house was not as bad as described, how it was the Germans who used violence. His mother, upon finding out the labour camp was actually an extermination camp after sawing the black smoke, went into a depraved period of psychological breakdown. The quote ‘We were not supposed to be friends, we were supposed to be enemies’ showed the scene of confusion within Bruno. With a child’s view, it is difficult for him to understand why is there a difference between them. Bruno looked up to his father but at the same time questioned what he did. Once, he saw his father sharing with the other officers, the demoniac nationalist project, a hoax ‘Theresienstadt’ in a room, which showed the camp as a camp giving opportunity and good to the Jews. Believing the film, Bruno was relieved on how great his father had been and ran over to hug him.

However, upon his mother’s worsen condition, his father reckoned it would be best to let the family to stay elsewhere. One day before the date, Bruno went to find Schmuel, who was beaten after Bruno wronged him to avoid punishment. Schmuel’s Pa disappeared. To make up his wrongdoing previously, Bruno decided to sneak into the camp and help him. At the same time, Bruno was excited to experience what he saw on Theresienstadt himself. On that very same day, the SS officer, particularly Bruno’s father, decided to increase the inmates being gassed. Hence, when Bruno dug a hole and went into the camp, in the process, Bruno and Schmuel were sent to the ‘shower room’. Realizing Bruno’s disappearance, the family realized where Bruno had went and ran to seek him. Bruno, however, did not escape the fate, but to hold hands with Schmuel as they were waiting what they feared. The officers poured in the infamous Zyklon B, gassing the chamber. The scene left with the quietened shower room, indicating death of the whole chamber of inmates, including Bruno. His father, was left in the rain, realizing what had happened. The family members, grieved.

Looking at this movie, one might tell the irony of what the father did had actually became the cause of his son’s death. But what else do we saw? We saw in different aspect, how life changes as they reeled around the Nationalist programme. At the same time, one would say, if the family members were influenced enough by the propaganda – wouldn’t this event showed how a Jew could lure the German into death? Is this a conspiracy? This, would led into a real thought on how one shall interpret the message. Of course, generally, we would – look at the bright side, but wouldn’t it be interesting just to look at it from a completely different perspective?

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