30 Day Film Challenge - 2. My Least Favourite Film

If I struggled with my favourite film, coming up with a least favourite was ten times harder. I immediately came up with many a film that I dislike for various reasons but when I really thought about it, the reasoning always seemed flaky or a little stupid. I hate film bashing. I am always fully aware that my opinions are just that and not always agreeable with everyone elses. What I decided then is that it would be a pretty boring world if we all liked (and disliked) the same things. Therefore, the film I eventually decided on was based entirely personal reasons and has a little story behind it.. I shall explain...

The Boy With The Strpied Pajamas (2008)

The Boy With The Striped Pajamas is based on a novel written by John Boyne. A novel that found it's way on to my reading list during my first year at University. Simplified, the story follows a friendship between Bruno, an 8 year old German boy, and Shmeul, a Jewish boy of the same age. Set during World War II, Bruno (whose father is commander in the Nazi army) lives in a three storey Polish town house while his friend resides behind the fence of a concentration camp. Bruno visits his friend every day and the two sit either side of the fence without anyone knowing. One day, Shmeul is upset because his father is missing and Bruno vows to help his friend find out where he is.

Now the story of me and that novel, it is relevant to all this I promise.

Truth is, I never finished it. It actually ended up in a heap after literally being thrown against my bedroom wall one night. I didn't throw it because I hated the book though, quite the opposite in fact. I became totally engulfed in those little boys lives that I clasped on to the naivety of their friendship. I loved the subtlety and freshness of the book and I loved the way it tip toed through an awful subject matter. I ended up not finishing because I became a heart broken silly girl during a scene where Bruno got head lice and had all his hair shaved off. I put two and two together right there, came to the devastating conclusion in my head and couldn't continue.

Ironically, I was made to watch the film during a lecture just a few weeks later and I was absolutely horrified.  It started off with promise. Asa Butterfield (Hugo) made Bruno likeable from the offset, which is differs from the book and isn't so much of a bad thing. For such a young actor, Butterfield is enigmatic and engaging. He manages the opposites of Bruno's relationships perfectly and the scenes that draw on how torn he is between  his friendship with Shmeul, played by Jack Scanlon and his miltitant father, played by David Thewlis (Harry Potter) are worth a watch.

The problems with this film began when I started to think about it and look back at what I had read. I'm no purist. I don't have a problem with book to screen adaptations nor do I with artistic licence but I honestly felt that all the subtlety that helped build Bruno's character was lost. It was almost as if he just became who he was, knew what he knew and the audience just had to accept it. There's a childish naivety towards the concentration camp that plays out beautifully on page that just isn't there in the film and I missed it.

Mark Herman wrote the screen play and directed. With films like Little Voice and Brassed Off under his belt I wasn't surprised that The Boy With Striped Pyjamas had all the glossiness of a Miramax picture but this isn't a rags to riches story, it's about the holocaust; something the film makers seem to forget a little too often.   As a result the film is clunky and watered down. The attempt to take such a subject matter and make it suitable for children fails, I mean when does something so harrowing become suitable for a child to understand? I saw Schindlers List when I was 14 and didn't completely get it but it at least affected me making me want to know more.

There was so much in The Boy With The Striped Pyjamas that I just didn't get and yet I always seemed one step ahead of any of the characters making the film predictable. This was more down to the lack of development and each character's knowledge of the situation than the fact that I had read the novel first. Most of the scenes were sweeping and stylistic without much context or incite and the incessant music score (that was absolutely everywhere) only helped to  take  away any tension or depth that could've been present.

So what about that fateful ending? The bit that I didn't read but knew was coming? Ironically, it was by far the best bit of the film. It wasn't nearly as atmospheric or terrifying as it should of been if put against what happened in reality but it made the point that the whole film was leading up to. That's why it shone out from the rest of the film in fact, all the energy and creativity must have gone on this 15 minute sequence. I watched it, I cried (big girl remember) and then thought that that rest of the film was pretty pointless.

I know it sounds like I'm against book adaptations but I really am not and will aim to prove so with some that I've loved in the near future. As always though, I'd love to hear your opinions.

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