The Boy in The Striped Pajamas: Movie Versus Book

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The novel, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne conveys the story of the friendship between two naive children, Bruno who is German and Shmeul who is Jewish during WW2. 8 years old Bruno met Shmuel, his own age, during Bruno’s accidental discovery of the concentration camp Auschwitz. The story revolves around how the two boys’ friendship grew and how in order to help Bruno’s only friend at his new home, as well as to overcome the curiosity he always had for the new home, Bruno changed into the striped pyjamas, climbed into the concentration camp and ultimately lost his life. However, in 2008, the adaptation film of the novel directed Mark Herman was released. The film followed the basic storyline of the novel, however, Herman added and adapted symbolism for a reviewing audience and therefore adjusted the text for new audiences.

In the novel, literary techniques assists the author in successfully communicating their message. However when adapted to a film, the director can use visual representation to communicate the same idea, if not deeper idea, to their viewers. In the film, symbolism is demonstrated through the use of stripes. Stripes symbolise cages and a sense of incarceration, and it is visible throughout the film. When Bruno first moved to his new house, a medium shot captures Bruno sitting along on the steps, looking unhappy. A long shot of Bruno through the striped poles, creates a sense although in a luxury mansion, hints of a jail, where a house filled with captivity. Even the striped pyjamas which the Jewish people were wearing also represent a captivity and lost of freedom. The atmosphere which was associated with all the scenes incorporating ‘stripes’ is ‘somber’, and through the motif of stripes, the viewer is constantly reminded influencing their emotions when viewing the film. This is one adjustment which Herman has used in appropriating the film for new audience, as the use of symbolism can help make the film more memorable and meaningful. Another symbolism which Herman chose to include are the dolls which Bruno’s sister had. The dolls which the girl slowly abandoned downstairs in the trash pile is a powerful reminder of the jewish bodies-dead, abandoned and forgotten.

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The film focuses more on the dark reality of how human thinks and judges based on the basic given information. As the film is an adaptation for the new audiences, viewers often think that in the end, Bruno will be saved from death. However, Herman deliberately made Bruno dying with Shmuel to reflect how people show empathy when Bruno dies but ignore the fact that the life of Shmuel, as well as the lives of thousands of Jewish people are equally as important as Bruno’s. While viewing the film, it is common that audiences often ignores the unfair treatment which the Jewish people are experiencing, hence showing more empathy towards Bruno. This directly reflects how dark the human minds can actually be. However, on the other hand, the novel focuses more on the message that we are all more alike than we are different. The pure friendship of the Jewish boy Shmuel and the German boy Bruno, set in the horrific background of the Holocaust, highlights the fact that divisions between people are arbitrary. The fence in the novel represents that division between people are too deliberate. “What exactly was the difference? Bruno wondered to himself. And who decided which people wore the striped pajamas and which people wore the uniforms?” highlights how the story is told through the eyes of a child, as they are unaware of colour, religion, gender and many other factors which can separate people from one another. Bruno is confused as to why people are wearing striped pyjamas which references the moral that we are all more alike than different.

In conclusion, the novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne was adapted into a film by Mark Herman later in 2008. The film has incorporated many film techniques as well as adapting the moral behind the text in order to suit the new audience. The adapted version of the text communicates a deeper message to the audience and is more suitable for a larger range of audience.


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