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Critic Reviews for Play
The ambient soundtrack enhances the sense of outsiders' indifference.
Wouldn't it be more effective if there was some range to the way the characters behaved, beyond just conforming to the roles of antagonist and antagonized?
It concerns how our compulsion to construct and comply with an acceptable public face can make us act against our own instincts and self-interest.
Audience Reviews for Play
Based on a series of real life incidents in Gothenburg, Sweden, Ostlund's film tells the story of how a group of young black kids were allowed to consistently mug children in broad daylight.
I live in a country which, thanks to a short lived economic boom, became very multicultural very quickly. Growing up in an era when everyone looked and spoke the same way, race just wasn't an issue. It is now though and I've seen racism spring up into two distinct forms -
Right-wing racism: The old school of contradictory statements like "They're stealing all our jobs" and "They're only here to scrounge off our welfare system". If it's proponents witnessed an argument between a local and an immigrant they would assume the immigrant is in the wrong. Thankfully this is a minority view mainly held by working class people of older generations, mainly due to ignorance and lack of education.
Left-wing racism: A more recent development whose practitioners have a mindset whereby they think members of other cultures "don't know any better", and therefore aren't subject to the same standards as their own race. If they witnessed an argument between a local and an immigrant they would assume the local is in the wrong. This is a disturbingly widespread view, mainly held by the middle class.
Both views are equally repellent and share one thing in common; a superiority complex, the former moral, the latter intellectual. Plenty has been said in the media about the former but the latter is swept under the carpet, mainly because said media is run by the sort of people who practice this form of intellectual racism.
Thankfully Ostlund has dared to speak out and does so in skilled fashion, adopting a style many may call distant, but it's lack of preachiness allows the viewer to make up their own mind on the issue. His camera has a Michael Haneke style of detachment, frequently shooting in ultra wide shots. This allows his actors to perform amongst unsuspecting members of the public who pretend not to notice the fact that a gang of kids are up to no good, just as in the real life cases which inspired the movie. The opening scene is shot in a shopping mall and sees two young boys harassed and mugged of a mobile phone. The shoppers walking by have no idea a movie is being shot yet do nothing to intervene in the situation, most likely because they don't want to be seen as racist. The only time we see adults intervene is when the black kids attack one of their own gang, and later when the fathers of two victims confront one of their muggers.
When the camera does get close up to the characters it's shot at kid level, like a "Tom & Jerry" cartoon, brilliantly showing how these kids have been let down by the adult world. In one scene the victims run into a coffee shop for help but the adults are unwilling to become embroiled in an issue which may upset their liberal worldview.
There's a scene on a tram which is a brilliant piece of directorial coordination, revealing an important piece of information only when the tram turns a corner and lets us see a portion of the carriage that was previously obscured. The same idea was used by Dario Argento in "Il Tram" and if Ostlund has seen this it's a nice homage, if not it's a genius piece of film-making.
At the end of the movie the black kids answer the phone they stole from one of their victims and mock his mother with vile homophobic language. Meanwhile the victim sits silently, his face filled with rage, on a tram as a ticket inspector fines him. Two sets of children have been let down by a society which no longer treats people as individuals.
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