The horror of the Holocaust has been approached by filmmakers from a variety of angles: from the styled seriousness of Schindler's List to the quirky humour of Life is Beautiful. Here, Mark Herman takes on the unenviable task of repackaging a distinctly child-unfriendly topic in a way that is digestible for young minds - and for the most part, succeeds. The plot centres around eight year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield), whose family move from their Berlin town house to a new home near the concentration camp which his Nazi-soldier father (David Thewlis) runs. Initially, Bruno is oblivious to the horror that lurks at the "farm", where, from his bedroom window, he sees people "wearing pyjamas". "Those people," explains his father, "well, you see, they're not really people at all." A keen explorer, Bruno befriends a young boy from behind the wire. However, despite all evidence to the contrary, he refuses to believe that his father is anything other than heroic, and that the number on Schmuel's "pyjamas" is not part of an elaborate game. Such relentless naivety does grate, but it is this that allows for the film's devastating denouement. Butterfield is excellent as the bright-eyed Bruno, and Farmiga is harried as a mother trying to protect her children from the horror of the Final Solution. An overblown score and some clunky imagery (at one point, Bruno sees a pile of naked dolls in their cellar) are weak links, but this is a chilling portrayal of incomprehensibly horrific events as seen through childish eyes.
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