If at the beginning of the film it seems we are going to enjoy a delicious film about childhood pranks, this is only an ephemeral impression. The atmosphere immediately changes when a minute later we watch German soldiers starting to throw the Jews out of their houses, leading them rudely somewhere we still don’t know. At first the movie emphasizes the contrast between the luxurious home where Bruno lives in Berlin with his parents having parties with friends, and the sad and cold house (forming part of a headquaters camp) located on a far place in the country where his father is sent. There are no children, no joy, nobody to play with. Bruno is not allowed to speak to the strange doctor, who despite having cured him, has to peel potatoes or to the other people and children he discovers through the window, on the other side of the fence, all of them in striped pyjamas. So it is not surprising that Bruno’s lively mind tries to escape from this kind of prison searching for the adventures every child needs. In this way he makes a secret friendship from the forbidden side, Shmuel, who gradually becomes a close companion.
The end of the film is so hard that, for a couple of hours, it remained in my mind, leaving me a bad feeling as if I had had a recent argument with a close friend and I was still blaming myself for it. This is, for me, the big difference between the film and the book, because the movie -like cinema in general- appears to be so real that grasps your emotions still stronger than reading.
Obviously is not possible to tell the whole book in an 90 minute film, much wider and detailed, but the movie appears to be instantly more real. It’s harder to swallow the picture of the innocent and naked boys entering the horror chamber of the concentration camp, surrounded by a crowd of skinny Jewish prisoners walking all straight to death, their crying drowned by a heavy closed door and the wide walls of the evil place. I was more uncomfortable and shocked than when I read the book. I felt the tragedy was round the corner when Bruno’s father, mother and sister, running desperately, searching for him, realise how their worst premonitions become more and more real. This makes you share the same emotions, to see what they see as if you were one of the characters. And the most heartbreaking scene, when Bruno’s mother and sister discover the hole under the fence and his clothes near it; the mother crying and asking why while looking at the sky.
Paradoxically, despite being surrounded by all this horror, I experimented an unhealthy feeling of revenge when the father arrives to the camp too late, watching the empty hut as a soldier, wearing a gas mask, has just finished releasing the mortal load inside the chamber. Bruno’s father heartrending cry and anguished expression summarise the horror of having his son killed and how deeply it hurts, like anarrow thrown to his heart. He has tasted his own horrid nazi medicine. Only then does he realise that he has assassinated his own innocent son, and he probably realises the monstrosities they were doing to the prisoners.
Finally I would like to highlight the final scene, the striped pyjamas scattered in the empty hut, waiting for new Jewish bodies to put them on. The senseless massacre that will be repeated again and again.