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The Boy in Striped Pyjamas - Beyond the Fence

In the mouth of war, humanity decays. It's only the living who know of their motherland, the dead only survives in the soils of history.

History is known to travel, to seek fingers that stroke, heads that turn, mouths that sing, hands that pen, feet that move to its rhythm; history reaches out in the palms of art and we bow to gulp, time and again. And these lips that don't shy away from the naked rot of atrocities, who are we if not facilitators of change?

The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, adapted from a novel of the same title written by John Boyne, set in the backdrop of World War II confronts the holocaust and the brutalities of Nazi prejudices, largely seen through the lens of two eight-year-olds. Bruno is son to a Nazi Commandment, wilding through the folds of his childhood with his best friends in Berlin only to find out they are expected to move to another place because of his father's job, located near a concentration camp he knows little to nothing about. The house is always surrounded by guards and servants with respectable past professions leaving him utterly confused and unhappy. His explorer side itches him to wander through the woods to find his own adventures, and one such adventure turns his life around.

Bruno meets Shmuel, another eight-year-old sharing the same birthday as him, but their similarities end right there. Shmuel lives in an isolated place fenced with barbed wires rendering him on the other side from Bruno, forced out of their homes into striped pyjamas. Bruno and Shmuel spend days talking to each other, from different sides of the fence, enduring their friendship beyond the differences they cannot make sense of. The fence symbolises the prejudices Jews were subjected to by the Nazi empire, rendering them as an inferiority, separating them from being treated as humans. The lively and flourishing greens behind Bruno stand in stark contrast to the deserted piece of land with no basic amenities that Shmuel is largely covered with. The friendship making its way from between and above these barbed wires is nothing but humanity travelling through, how it sits atop the meagre facade of society and survives even the worst of brutalities. The striped pyjamas are a step further down the road to dehumanise the Jews in eyes of people, to picturise them as only prisoners and criminals of society, to place them aside from where they truly belong.

The movie takes its time to build, the innocent friendship between two boys goes on to leave a terribly confronting mark on society. The point of view of these two boys thus shape how the movie is molded, the confusion of not being able to make sense of things going around them, the half-answers fed to them, the inability to understand how two boys of the same age can live such utterly different lives, the denied knowledge- leaving us hoping for a better ending, leaving us hoping for an end if just that.

The ending is the naked face of the cruelties of the holocaust and how it left only victims on both sides of the wires. We are left exposed to the innocence of those who were brutally murdered, and we can do nothing but hear the cries and screams in our heads long after the movie has ended. The sweet friendship between two naive boys brings their lives to a turn no one was ready for. This movie plays more on the faces of these boys than the space between them, it leaves us wrecked, a reminder of how the lives lost were as human as those on the other side of it, and how the survivors are still surviving the trauma of what happened to and around them. This is a piece of art naked in its pronunciation of the war, leaving us to find scraps of humanity and hope that let many live to see today.

Art from the mouth of war, is a testament. It says we won't let you forget.


Written By Resham Sharma

Resham is a literature graduate with an earnest passion for the written word of art.

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