This post will contain some spoilers so if you haven't read the book or seen the film you do so at your own risk!
The book is written entirely from the 9 year old protagonist's point of view and I was interested to see how this translated into the film. I feel that it's done pretty well, there's no use of voice-overs or anything like that, the central focus is always Bruno and through filming it in this way you see the world more as he sees it.
The book contains a lot of flashbacks to explain the background story, and to give a better insight into Bruno's world. It's not something that happens in the film, events are moved around slightly at the start to allow for important dialogue that is contained in the flashbacks to take place.
Overall the film is a fairly good adaptation of the book, some bits are lost which I think is a shame but overall the main plot points are there. The most major point that I want to draw attention to is the difference between the family interaction in the book and the film. In the book the other family members don't seem to to have a very "caring family" feeling, dialogue between them tends to be more stilted, polite and Bruno's father is portrayed as someone to be afraid of. In the film there seems to be a stronger family dynamic, the father is made more approachable and the mother seems to have a greater caring for the welfare for the children. However this could just be down to the fact that the book is from Bruno's point of view but I do feel that it is the film makers trying to make the parents more likeable characters.
Other more minor differences between the two include:
- The opening of the film includes a large party hosted by Bruno's parents in Berlin before the move. This party encompasses the majority of the dialogue from the flashbacks that happen later in the book.
- The Mother is entirely unaware to begin with of the gassing and burning of the Jews in the concentration camp. It is revealed to her later in the film. In the book you get more of a feel that she is entirely aware of the situation that faces those living on the other side of the fence.
- Bruno meets Schmuel earlier on in the film than in the book. This is probably more of a plot device to move the action along quicker than anything more important.
- Hitler, whilst mentioned a fair bit in the book is not in the film at all. The only mention of him is the sending of flowers to Bruno's Grandmother's funeral. In the book Bruno meets Hitler and Eva Braun, and he is mentioned a lot more.
- In the book, Bruno's head is shaved after discovering he has head-lice, making him blending in more once he has climbed under the fence into the concentration camp. In the film he is given a hat to cover his hair.
The ending of the film was handled in a great way I feel. In the book the focus is entirely on Bruno and Schmuel and the searching for him is handled in an epilogue afterwards, which also makes mention of his father as a Commandant being arrested after the fall of Germany. In the film the movement of the prisoners into the Gas Chambers and their subsequent murder is interspersed with the family desperately searching for Bruno, leading them to the gap in the fence. The final shot of the gas chamber door and the silence is harrowing and had me in tears long after the film had finished. It's an excellent watch and I would highly recommend it.
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas [DVD] Directed by Mark Herman, Starring Asa Butterfield, Jack Scanlon and David Thewlis. Rated 12
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by James Boyne. Available in Paperback and Kindle Edition