This movie has an interesting adaptation in terms of setting. It establishes a tone where war time Germany is set in idyllic scenery and with picturesque landscapes, homes and cities. The movie operates from that view and the hidden evils of war are more coming from the outside of this seeming cocoon.
This adaptation is particularly interesting in that all of these people seem to have had enough, it terms of scenery, nice homes, wealth and so on, yet they are perpetrating a war on outsiders and also as it turns out their own citizens.
The central character in the film is Bruno, who is an 8 year old boy and is never told about the war and the concentration camps that his father is now involved in running. His older sister is aware, but they don’t want him to know. The wife, a quality woman of faith, is also at first unaware of what exactly her husband is involved with. And this raises the larger historical issue which has been written about which is just how informed some relatives where about what was going in Germany during World War 2.
The children have a home tutor as the family makes the move from the city to the country near the camp and some of the anti Jewish tenants are exposed through the teaching of the tutor.. There seems to be some theory that suddenly becomes massively subscribed to about the Jewish population but a lot of it revolves around the idea that this prosperity is limited and there is a limited piece of pie and the Jewish population will be shrewd in taking a big portion of this pie away for themselves and a lot of the uprising against the population according to this movie is out of economic theory and motivations. There seems to be a clasp around whatever prosperity is left and it needs to be persevered at all costs including any type of evil deemed necessary to hold on to it. But all this comes out of a warped theory, that there are limited amounts to go around for everybody and the reality is that this is only just another guess.
The young boy is intelligent in that he reads well, and is interested mainly in adventure books and has a nascent attraction to the world and life itself and the adventures it may offer and the movie flows through his thoughts and his views. As the movie turns, we also see that although he is so young, he is really a great guy, and there are some key scenes that show that even the adults around him see him this way and want to protect him also for that reason and this is part of the reason he remains unsuspecting of what is really going on.
One such scene is an awkward moment with guest at the table and nobody is talking and he breaks the ice nicely with an appropriate question.
This movie echoed Gone with the Wind a bit, where there was an idyllic and beautifully landscaped South, with horrors being perpetrated right nearby on a segment of the population and then a wider war without coming closer and closer.
While the movie remains small in scope, the boy soon mistakenly ventures to the outskirts of a concentration camp and sees another 8 year old boy behind the barbed wire and thinks it is some sort of camp with games. His interpretation is buoyed by a propaganda film he accidentally oversees in his house depicting these camps as almost with country club like conditions.
Bruno, centrally is a great guy, someone who should have been able to venture forward in life without being suddenly near a nightmare of evil. A tragic irony here is that as the movie proceeds we see how much his father values him and sees his goodness, yet can’t divorce himself from his own participation in the evil and then what explains this dichotomy within the father?
But the other major question presenting in this movie, is how do people that have so much inherent beauty and joy around them, delve into the harshest realms of evils, and then when some of this evil begins to reverberate right back to them, act surprised that it would happen to work that way?
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