“We’re not supposed to be friends, you and me. We’re meant to be enemies…”
I have written before about the traumatic experience of reading The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Undeterred by that dark chapter in my life, I contrived to watch the film for the first time… with a classroom full of 12 year olds. Needless to say their lives are forever changed and I have once again made a terrible error.
I won’t go into the story. Either you know it or, if you don’t, you need to stop what you are doing right now and go and read the book. Does the film adaptation do the book justice though? Not quite for me.
Everything is present and correct and the ending is suitably emotional and upsetting but without John Boyne’s wonderful prose we never really get an insight into Bruno and how his mind works. The best parts of the books are those where the reader knows what is happening but Bruno does not and this is not quite captured in the same way in the film.
David Thewlis is mostly successful in straddling the line between loving father and hideous monster but he is perhaps too close to the former to really be a fair representation of the same character in the book. Vera Farmiga fares better as mother but it is the two boys and the chemistry they share that really holds the film together. Asa Butterfield is particularly good as Bruno but both boys excel.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was declared an instant classic on release but there is a nagging feeling that in 20 years time it will be the book that will be remembered rather than this film adaptation.