Edited by MLeary, 06 November 2008 - 07:20 PM.
Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Posted 06 November 2008 - 07:19 PM
Posted 06 November 2008 - 08:36 PM
Tony Watkins wrote:
: Yes, the propaganda film was shot in the camp.
Ah, so another departure from history, then.
: I enjoyed Brassed Off a lot, though I haven't seen it in years. The history of the mine closures in the UK is immensely important, and so I suspect that this film doesn't work anywhere near as well outside these shores.
FWIW, I suspect that vjmorton is of British stock. (I can't recall whether he has ever spelled this out, as such, in his reviews, but a number of his comments seem to point in that direction; cf. the bit in his blurb on Elizabeth: The Golden Age where he says "every British Catholic grows up knowing what a 'priest hole' is" ... oh wait, there, he also writes: "like most British Catholics, I really do have pretty thick skin about British history, thicker than a lot of St. Blogs’s Americans. But this pissed off even me.")
: Here's what bugs me. Please let me know if I'm WAY off-base: Six million Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust, and I'm supposed to get all broken up about one gentile boy who lost his life because of a series of factors that amount to a case of mistaken identity? Maybe that's simplistic, but come on.
I didn't feel a need to get "all broken up" about it. I thought it was more a sort of comeuppance for the gentile father who made/let it happen. I don't think the film is about "the plight of Jews" as much as it is about the dangers of "innocence" (and its grown-up corollary, "denial").
It's especially pertinent, one might argue, in this day and age when many people are wilfully "innocent" or in "denial" about what their own countries are doing.
: And I wondered what people were supposed to think as they left the theater -- what the "take home" message was supposed to be.
Me too. Life Is Beautiful works as a "fable" ABOUT denial because it IS an act of denial. But The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a "fable" about innocence slowly caving in to the truth, yet you have to suspend disbelief and accept so many non-realistic aspects of the film that the whole dawning-of-the-truth aspect is kind of undermined.
Posted 07 November 2008 - 02:03 AM
I'm not saying that the film is flawless, or that the way the film develops the friendship between the two boys in the last half hour doesn't undermine some of the other bits, but even then it's more about the lies told to the German child (I'm surprised that Tony needed give a reminder about the scene where the boy sees where the children in the film have been playing), than about the suffering of the Jews.
The film could, perhaps have filled out the father, his relationship with his wife and his soldiers more, but I think this questioning of how this awful thing happened, rather than what happen and what it's significance is, is the heart of the film.
That's a bit off the cuff so please go easy on me!
Posted 07 November 2008 - 03:48 AM
: . . . I'm surprised that Tony needed give a reminder about the scene where the boy sees where the children in the film have been playing . . .
It wasn't a "reminder", so much as a confirmation that the exact arrangement of skipping stones in one scene was identical to the exact arrangement of skipping stones in the other scene. I wasn't sure whether that was supposed to be the Exact Same Place (which would have been impossible, historically), or simply a very similar kind of place that made Bruno stop and pause and think for a moment.
Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 07 November 2008 - 03:48 AM.
Posted 10 November 2008 - 12:42 PM
I don't think I've seen — at least since equally offensive concentration camp fable, Life Is Beautiful — a movie so reliant on human stupidity to achieve its effect, so totally dishonest in its insistence on that quality (which it presents as innocence) to achieve its narrative goals. Bruno and Shmuel may be only eight years old, but that is well past the age of reason, and they are caught up in situation that would force anyone to acquire a shrewdness well in advance of their years. I don't know if a movie as simpleminded and emotionally shameless as this one definitively proves that fiction is not a suitable vehicle for the consideration of crimes as vast as the Holocaust. But it will do until the next historical travesty comes along.
I think Dargis' review gets closer to my own take -- being offended by the film's focus -- but Schickel finds the plot machinations so preposterous he can't take the film at all seriously. I've noted a few reviews that mention the lack of guards along the perimeter of the camp, but nothing like Schickel's.
The film is still "fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes.
Posted 10 November 2008 - 03:27 PM
I had directed Barbara to this board before she had written her review, and I believe she added this paragraph as a result:
There is a little bit of controversy about this film. Critics seem to be annoyed that it derives its central tension from the threat to one little German boy, as opposed to the millions of Jews. This criticism seems to me to be idiotic. Every movie derives its power by foregrounding the problems of one or two little people. In this case, the point of the film is to point a finger of condemnation at the German grown-ups here, who thought they could "handle" the evil they were dabbling in. In the end, it becomes a snowball rolling down hill that has the same effect as in the life of the Pharoah Ramsees when he perpetrated evil on the Hebrew people. If you do evil, it will consume you...or at least your children.
Posted 10 November 2008 - 03:51 PM
To be fair, it's just the one critic -- me -- who seems put off by what she attributes to "critics." But there are obviously other offensive angles and elements in this movie, whether or not one agrees with my take on the film.
EDIT: Just read the review. Oh.My.Goodness:
The film is not at all graphic, but the end is very disturbing. The people sat in the theater silent during the credits. The ladies behind me were wiping away tears. But I think everybody needs to see it. ESPECIALLY this week when so many Christians have seen their way to compromising with the greatest social evil of our day - abortion. Our people voted to overlook a little thing like the slaughter of the unborn, because of other considerations like economic prosperity, climate change and the desire to have all the other nations in the world like us again. This kind of a choice gets a very dramatic and cautionary treatment in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
I walked out of the theater ashamed of my country, and for the first time in any Holocaust movie, seeing in the German people not a scapegoat of history, but people just like us Americans in 2008. Only we will get judged harsher then they will, eh? Because we had their mistakes to study. My thought as I drove away in my car was, "The only real lesson of history is that people never learn from it."
I will not comment on this, other than to say I can go with what she's saying ... to a point. But ... Obama voters are just like the Nazis and Nazi sympathizers, because they overlooked the holocaust of abortion and focused on other issues? There's a lot to unpack there. Don't think I'm gonna touch it.
Edited by Christian, 10 November 2008 - 03:57 PM.
Posted 25 November 2008 - 10:37 AM
The movie is running ads on Crosswalk, but I hadn't realized there was a full-court press among other religious outlets. This morning I listened to "Focus on the Family" and heard an ad inserted between FOTF and the program that follows ("Family Life Today") for "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas."
I am stunned that a movie this serious has been pushed this hard, to this audience, but overall, I think that's healthy. What's incredibly *disturbing* is how they keep promoting the film as appropriate for families, etc. I guess if you want to leave the theater traumatized, and maybe give your kids nightmares, this is the sort of "serious" film that qualifies. But Lord have mercy on those who take up the advice.
I continue to feel strongly that this film, whether one thinks it's well made, is in no way appropriate for younger viewers. OK, yes, maybe teenagers, but the commercials don't really make that distinction. I do wonder if the religious audience is turning out for the film, or if its grosses are being pushed by secular audiences.
Edited by Christian, 25 November 2008 - 11:33 AM.
Posted 25 November 2008 - 10:55 AM
This is a practical application of Holocaust studies to films like this. Is it worth using Holocaust imagery to teach children moral lessons? The Holocaust is so awful that in such a process one of the two components will end up getting watered down, either the Holocaust imagery or the moral lesson. To water down either is a travesty.
Posted 01 December 2008 - 09:06 AM
And a similar defense is invoked, explicitly or implicitly, so routinely that it calls forth cynicism. Why do opportunistic, clever young novelists — I won’t name any names — gravitate toward magic-realist depictions of the decidedly unmagical reality of the Shoah? For the same reason that actors shave their heads and starve themselves, or preen and leer in jackboots and epaulets. For the same reason that filmmakers commission concrete barracks and instruct their cinematographers and lab technicians to filter out bright, saturated colors. To win prizes of course.
This is Holocaust studies in a nutshell.
Posted 02 December 2008 - 08:59 AM
While I agree with much that Scott says, I think this is an unfairly cynical view. Most novelists, film-makers and actors, it seems to me, want to do the best they can in their profession, and any prizes are a bonus - especially for novelists. It always seems to me that it's the bigger names, working with the big studios, that are deliberately trying to catch the eye of the various judges. Some of them just want box-office numbers, but they don't tend to make films that are serious enough to be controversial like this one is. Most of them are trying to do the best they can in their work - write the best book they can, make the best film they can, give their best performance. Especially when they're dealing with serious subjects. They may not understand the subject well enough, or have considered it from enough viewpoints, but they want to tell a story that moves people.
less equivalent to a western or a combat picture or a sword-and-sandals
epic — part of a genre that has less to do with history than with the
perceived expectations of moviegoers. This may be the only, or at least
the most widely available, way of keeping the past alive in memory, but it is also a kind of forgetting.
This may well be true, but if writers and film-makers don't attempt to help people remember from time to time (or open young people's eyes to what happened for the first time), then won't the memory gradually fade away from mainstream consciousness? It will become a very pure memory for a small segment of the population. I would rather my sons learned that otherwise decent people reached a point where they were capable of perpetrating the most horrific evil, and then became sufficiently interested in the Holocaust that they would want to learn more about the reality and get a truer picture than they start with. I don't want them to stop at first base, but isn't something that opens their eyes better than nothing?
Posted 02 December 2008 - 10:55 AM
Posted 02 December 2008 - 11:13 AM
Holocaust imagery in Chicken Run? it's a long time since I saw it but I don't remember any. WWII imagery a-plenty, of course.
Posted 02 December 2008 - 08:52 PM
That is kind of the crux right there. The problem with the films Scott criticizes is that they aren't actually about the Holocaust. They are based on such poor uses of historical memory that they are actually about something different. The "genre" is characterized by a set of moral lessons that use the holocaust as a didactic backdrop. If you want your children to learn about the Holocaust, show them a film that is actually about the Holocaust - there are many out there (Night and Fog, Shoah, The Last Days, Sorrow and the Pity). According to one school of thought, films like Striped Pyjamas actually encourage "remembering to forget," with the result that they subvert and erase actual historical memory. From Zelizer's famous book on the subject: "..."today we do know and still have not done enough to stop the recurrence of sanctioned barbarism. Despite ample evidence of atrocity as it is taking place, our response to pictures of horror often produces instead helplessness and indifference, by which we do little more than contextualize each instance of horror against those which come before and after."
I had forgotten about this essay Peter, thanks!
Chicken Run starts with a tilt from the moon to a barbed-wire fence, within which a roving spotlight surveys the compound. Soon we see a chicken make a run for the fence, scoop out a hole with a spoon, and squeeze underneath. References later to the owners of the chicken farm as "Jerry" confirm that the allusion is to a German camp.
Each of these scenes, wherein a major player of the film defies imprisonment, operates as a metonymy of the whole film's content: Magneto seeks to escape his marginalization as a mutant, and Ginger seeks the escapism of a utopian community. However, by placing images of Nazi prison camps in their comic-book fantasy films, the filmmakers have emptied those images of their disturbing historical significance; the camps become merely a part of the fantasy, operating as visual tools signalling oppression, the same way the image of a bed in movies of the forties and fifties signalled sex.
Posted 02 December 2008 - 11:27 PM
I found this a fascinating fable. Obvious historical inaccuracies and improbability aside, this fiction explores the human side of a German family whose father is seen as a "good man" while he murders on a monstrous scale. That he pays the ultimate price is a truth that doesn't always happen in this world as in this film, but it will happen.
Although the film is not a Christ-figure in the classic sense, it has some interesting parallels, including a "Peter-like" denial.
Posted 03 December 2008 - 05:18 AM
This is really interesting. I must make time to read Scott's piece and reflect on this more.
Posted 03 December 2008 - 05:25 AM
Posted 03 December 2008 - 09:06 AM
Yeah, it is very interesting stuff. I am not sure how far I want to go with Holocaust Studies, which tend to be extremely critical. But I can understand why Life is Beautiful would make someone bitter. As per some points you made above, I am more hesitant than Scott to criticize actors and screenwriters for being manipulative in using the Holocaust as a setting. Holocaust Studies is so academic that it is a bit unfair to require people to conform to its tenets in every circumstance. Yes, even the hens in Chicken Run.
Posted 03 December 2008 - 09:13 AM
I think this is my problem with some of the things I hear. It seems so preoccupied with insisting that there is only one way of framing the discussion that the real-life world of the majority of people is apparently discounted. It feels like the trap Christians have sometimes fallen into of being so obsessed with doctrinal correctness that any thought of engaging with lost people is left in the bottom drawer.
But what do I know? I have no historical background that ties me intimately with these events. I don't know people who do have such a background. I've not read a great deal on the subject.