maanantai 11. helmikuuta 2013

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – Differences between the novel and the film

During the Second World War a 9-year-old boy, Bruno lives with his family in Berlin. His father, who is an SS officer, gets a promotion and they have to move to the countryside. Bruno notices that right behind their new house is “a farm” and he is curious why “the farmers” wear pajamas all day long. Bruno is bored because he doesn’t have any friends in their new home and there is nothing to do, so one day he decides to go to “the farm” and meets a Jewish boy, Shmuel, who is on the other side of an electric fence. They make friends and Bruno starts to visit him regularly by the fence.

I saw The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ movie version first and read the novel after that. There aren’t any huge differences between the novel and the film. The filmmakers obviously tried to be loyal to John Boyne’s novel. Of course there are a few differences, but they don’t change the plot very much. Let’s start with the location. Perhaps the first bigger difference I noticed while reading the book was that the concentration camp is right behind Bruno’s new home (less than 50 meters away I recall) and Bruno can clearly see it from his window. The camp is also described to be huge and Shmuel says that there are thousands of prisoners in the camp. But in the film the camp is on the other side of a small forest (maybe less than a kilometer away I think) and Bruno can barely see it from the window. The camp also looks relatively small. In the book it’s revealed that their new home is in Poland because Shmuel says so and Bruno always pronounces the name of their new home incorrectly and calls it “Out-With” (means Auswitz). I don’t remember that anyone used that name or mentioned Poland in the film. In fact, I thought that they were in Southern Germany while watching it.

What comes to the characters, I think the biggest difference between the book and the film is Bruno’s father. In the film he seems to be nicer and concentrates more on his family, but in the novel he’s a more distant and cold person, whose life revolves around his job. Bruno is a little bit more naive in the book. Gretel, Bruno’s big sister, is quite similar in the film and the novel, but Bruno’s mother is slightly different. In the film she is more emotional and sympathetic. Lieutenant Kotler, who is one of father’s employees, is quite young in the novel which was a little surprise. In the film looks like he is nearly 30 years old, but the book reveals he’s only 19, which feels pretty unrealistic in my opinion. How can a 19-year-old boy be an SS lieutenant?

Some scenes have been removed and changed a little bit in the movie. In the book there is a weird chapter which tells about the Fury coming for dinner in the family’s home in Berlin to discuss the father’s promotion and new job. The Fury turns out to be Hitler (he calls his escort Eva and Bruno notices that The Fury has an almost invisible moustache). The chapter is very unrealistic. I’m not an expert, but I think that if the leader of the Third Reich came for dinner, there would be more bodyguards than just Eva. The film ends when Bruno gets gassed, but the novel tells briefly what happens to his family after that.

I also noticed that Bruno’s age had been changed in the movie. In the book Bruno was born in April 15th, 1935 and he is nine years old at the beginning of the story, but in the film he is only eight and I can’t see why. In the film everything happens during one summer I think, but in the novel Bruno dies a year after they moved to “Out-With”.  I think that the moviemakers made the change, because in the novel the time jumps from the summer directly to the next spring. The war is under way in both the film and the novel, but the film doesn’t tell the exact year. The novel doesn’t tell it directly either, but I have figured it out: I think that the exact year at beginning of the book is 1943 because at some point some soldiers talk about the year 1942 like it’s already gone and Bruno should turn nine in 1943. Bruno dies in spring 1944 and a year later his father figures out what happened to Bruno and after that foreign soldiers arrest him (Germany surrendered in spring 1945).

I liked the film and the novel but the novel was naturally better, because it gave more information about everything, especially Bruno’s thoughts. The film was just a sum up, but still worth watching.

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