Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Wars & Coming of Age
Children have a different slant on the world — dare we ask if that is the answer to the question of whether Mark Herman and Guillermo Del Toro see through different lenses than the rest of us.
Herman’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone explore the crises arising around young boys who grow up in a wartime arena. Both movies show how the idealism of the young gives way to the increasing pressures of an adult world. Yet the master stroke with each is the point-of-view displayed by the young boys as they bear witness to horrors usually seen from an adult point-of-view.
Both movies deal with the horrors of how a war divides people into groups so they can struggle against an enemy. Both deal with aspects of evil acts committed by the usual suspects and some unlikely ones. And both show the hope to bridge barriers.
In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Bruno loses his father’s closeness because the war has taken him away so that despite being in the same house, father becomes distant. Bruno grows up believing the propaganda about a Jewish threat, but grows to see the falsity of his learning. He strives to counter that by forming a friendship with a Jewish prisoner.
In The Devil’s Backbone, Carlos strives to cope with hatred from students and a caretaker who murdered a young boy. He is surrounded by a staff that yearns for a fountain of youth to supplant death and also crave gold to avoid life’s harshness. But Carlos inspires others with a sense of community.
These examples of hope emerging from an arena of despair come to us from the way the stories are told by Herman and Del Toro. The struggles against war and close-mindedness don’t hit us from the eyes of the adults who have set the troubles in motion. The point-of-view strikes us from the child who suffers in the environment of that crisis.
Herman and Del Toro must have sat around a cafe talking about their approaches together. Herman takes Bruno step by step from his known world into the discoveries about the lies from father and the kindness of two Jewish people. Del Toro submerges us within Carlos’ world so that the staff and caregiver’s experiences only become understood through a layered effect of discovery. Herman and Del Toro want us to view the horrors from another angle.
Too often we only see the fight from the eyes of the combatants. Dare we ask how that conflict shatters the psyche of others caught in the mix?
The Boy In The Striped Pajamas image property of Tower Video.
The Devil's Backbone image property of Yahoo Movies.