Double bill at the Rio: Au Revoir Les Enfants directed by Louis Malle and The boy in Striped Pyjamas. The theme was Jewish children in the second World War. The Rio cinema is between Dalston and Stoke Newington in North East London. It is close also to the Jewish Hassidic area of Stamford Hill, where it is common to see men in tall black hats with ear ringlets and women with wigs, walking around. (When it’s raining the men put plastic carrier bags over their tall black hats!) Therefore it was touching to see quite a few Jewish grandparents with their grandchildren. You have to keep teaching the younger generation. What is obvious to us is news to them.
For this same reason I took my teenager. To watch Au Revoir Les Enfants with her was a revelation. It’s set in a French Catholic school run by monks. My daughter kept chuckling delightedly throughout. It’s incredible how little French school has changed, she said. (My daughter goes to a French school). The same discipline and old-fashioned teaching methods have remained to this day. Not necessarily a bad thing. She loved the film.
The Boy in Striped Pyjamas was less successful. I found it contrived. The actors had English, not German accents. Some young people might think that the Nazis were British! It also plays into the Hollywood habit of having British actors play the baddie.
The film is based on the fictional novel of the same name. It allows the notion that Germans did not know what was happening to the Jews. That they could live next door to a concentration camp and not understand that the acrid smelling black smoke coming out of the chimneys is the smell of people burning. There is a tragic twist at the end which never happened in real life. It did not ring true. It was (like Martin Amis’ indecent book ‘Time’s Arrow’) a dramatic conceit placed there for mere shock value.