- Released Internationally on 14/11/08
- Released in Malta by KRS on 19/11/08
In a nutshell
Based on the 2006 novel, this moving and original WW2 drama allows us to stumble upon a concentration camp as seen through the eyes of an 8-year-old German boy, and is a wonderful piece of storytelling with a hard-hitting message.
Vot is ze plot?
This British film introduces us to a well-groomed young boy named Bruno, whom we soon is found out is the son of a prominent Nazi officer. The director has decided to do away with any German accents, and instead all the characters in the film have pristine British accents. This makes the dialogue flow better and enhances the acting, although it takes a few scenes to get used to, and see past. There is no doubt which side of the fence our main protagonists are on, however, as Bruno's father hosts the Berlin elite at his house for a party to celebrate his promotion, and he proudly descends the main staircase to the sound of the German national anthem. We later discover that he has been promoted to commander of a concentration camp, and he is obliged to move his wife and two children to a villa close to the camp. This is where Bruno's adventure begins.
Who's in it?
Vera Farmiga, whom you might recognise as the love interest from Scorcese's The Departed, is Bruno's mum, whilst David Thewlis (The Big Lebowski, Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter franchise) is his newly-promoted father. Bruno himself is played by relative newcomer Asa Butterfield, who quite easily steals the show from all the adults around him. Another relative newcomer, Briton Mark Herman, sat in the director's chair.
Ignorance is bliss
Like most 8-year olds, Bruno thinks the world of his father, and has little interest in politics or what is going on outside the confines of his little world. But the stiffling limits of their countryside villa can only hold him for so long, and he soon finds a way out into the surrounding grounds, and inevitably reaches what he initialy thinks is a farm, but which we all know is something far worse. Despite his mother's best efforts to shelter her two children from the atrocities happening just miles from their home, it inevitably starts to dawn on her that what her husband is doing goes far beyond patriotism, and is not an environment she should be raising her children in.
Life is beautiful
It's been around a decade since Benigni's seminal film showed us how a father managed to protect his son from the terrors of war by pretending that it was all a game, and wrapping it all in fantasy. Here we see the other side of the coin - the young boy who starts off with a childhood fantasy but is slowly and painfully exposed to the truth. The innocent, childlike and stepwise way in which Bruno is slowly exposed to the horrors of the concentration camp help remind us just how horrifying and sad they are. Any comparison to Benigni's masterpiece has to be a good thing, and this flm definitely deserves it.
In the end
The build-up is wonderfully done, and the slow breakdown of Bruno's family relationship, exemplified by his mother being torn between her husband and her children, is well-written and acted. As the film rushes to its jaw-dropping climax, the pace quickens, and I was left silent and stunned as the end credits rolled. Simple, effective, and important - this is one film you shouldn't miss.