I bumped into yon John Boyne this morning. He was in terrifically good form, which was unsurprising given that was standing in the foyer of the cinema which had just preview screened the movie of THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS, with the added bonus that the movie is a smashing version of the book. I personally prefer his most recent novel MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY to THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS, but the movie really cuts to the heart of what made the latter a multi-million selling phenomenon.
David Thewlis turns in an excellent performance as the epitome of the banality of evil in his role as a concentration camp commandant, and the father of Bruno, the flawed hero of the piece who meets the strange boy in the striped pyjamas who lives on a farm behind barbed wire. It’s young Jack Scanlon as Shmuel who steals the show, however – with his rotten teeth, shaven head and potato-shaped skull, the emaciated little boy is a heartbreaker, and Scanlon’s naturalistic performance is the stand-out.
Fans of the novel will be pleased to hear that the downbeat ending has not been altered so as not to offend the sensibilities of the mainstream movie audience, but while the finale makes perfect sense in terms of the story’s narrative arc, I still have my reservations about the direction of its emotional thrust, and would have preferred to see the emphasis placed on Shmuel rather than Bruno. Not that I told John Boyne that, of course, mainly because to change the emphasis would make a farce of the narrative arc that had gone before. And it would have been rude.
Anyhoos, the official word from Chez Grand Viz is that John Boyne is a charming and surprisingly understated bloke for a multi-million selling author, and I’d be surprised if the movie of THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS didn’t sell another multi-million of the novel. While you’re in the bookshop? Buy MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY too. You won’t be disappointed.
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.