It is safe to presume that neither Director Mark Herman’s (2008) adaption of The Boy in The Striped Pajamas nor Director Roberto Benigni’s (1997) film Life is Beautiful, should be taken as a documentary on the Holocaust. Though Herman’s The Boy in The Striped Pajamas is based in realism, it is also based on the (2006) fictional children’s novel written by John Boyne.
we shall pit two cinematic representations of the Holocaust (The Boy in The Striped Pajamas and Life is Beautiful) against each other in a comparative analysis on the ethics regarding Holocaust representations in the face of creative liberties taken by the director. In the name of artistic liberties taken by the director, exactly how much leeway can an artist be allowed before an “innovative,” fantastical interpretation of history becomes an intentional distortion?
).His application of comedic models within such a dark period of world history had originally made me deliberate on whether or not Benigni was trying to approach the Holocaust from an outlook such as “I laugh to keep from crying,” hinting at the therapeutic healing effects of laughter, and how it could be utilized to help heal a gaping emotional , psychological wound .
However, after watching Life is Beautiful, I couldn’t help but equate the film to rubbing salt into wounds that have yet to heal. It was excruciatingly painful to watch. I mean really, a comedy about the Holocaust?
In films such as Benigni’s Life is Beautiful and Herman’s The Boy in The Striped Pajamas, the parents of Bruno and Joshua responded to the compulsory, perhaps even biological need to shelter their young, thus leaving their offspring to live “insulated from the knowledge of the true nature of his environment and the people who inhabit it” (Bullaro 237).
As illustrated within the final scenes in The Boy in The Striped Pajamas, living in this cloud of ignorance can have dire consequences. It is because of the disturbing ending and the portrayal of violence within this film that I have argued throughout the length of this paper on my support of the realism portrayed within The Boy in The Striped Pajamas.
Unlike the film Life is Beautiful, within The Boy in The Striped Pajamas the camera did not pan away or averts its “gaze” elsewhere when faced with evidence of death and violence; to have done so would be to take part in the denial of the reality of the Holocaust, the treatment of the Jews, and the genocide to follow.
In Herman’s realistic portrayal following a plausible chain of causality, he shattered the viewer’s expectation that a film about the Holocaust would end with a contrived “And They Lived happily Ever After.” Rather, the camera stares straight-forward, daring it’s viewers to look death in the eye and not blink.