Friday, June 15, 2012

Play (2011) (introduced by Ruben Östlund)

SE/DK/FR 2011. PC: Plattform Produktion / Société Parisienne de Production / Film i Väst / Coproduction Office. P: Erik Hemmendorff. D: Ruben Östlund. SC: Ruben Östlund, Erik Hemmendorff. DP: Marius Dybwad Brandrud - shot digitally with a Red One Camera - 1,85:1. S: Jan Alvermark, Jens de Place Bjørn. ED: Jakob Secher Schulsinger. C: Kevin Vaz, Yannick Diakité, Nana Manu, Sebastian Blyckert, Anas Abdirahman, Abdiaziz Hilowle, Sebastian Hegmar, John Ortiz. 118 min. 35 mm print: Coproduction Office with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Sodankylä (Midnight Sun Film Festival), Friday, 16 June 2012.

Svenska Filminstitutet, faktablad: "Ruben Östlund's third feature is a serious yet humorous study of human behaviour inspired by authentic cases in which groups of young boys robbed other children in central Göteborg. What was remarkable about the robberies was that they followed an elaborate role-play which tricked the victims without resort to violence or threats."

IMDb, Coproduction Office: "An astute observation based on real cases of bullying. In central Gothenburg, Sweden, a group of boys, aged 12-14, robbed other children on about 40 occasions between 2006 and 2008. The thieves used an elaborate scheme called the 'little brother number' or 'brother trick', involving advanced role-play and gang rhetoric rather than physical violence."

Anton Asikainen in the festival catalogue: "In 2020, Ruben Östlund’s Play will be considered as one of the most essential Nordic films of the previous decade. This is the only possible outcome, for probably no other film meters the pulse of Nordic societies with equal precision. A passenger train is dashing forward somewhere between Stockholm and the rest of Sweden."

"The neatly polished and quiet order of the train is disturbed by a cradle left in the middle of the aisle – something the train conductors don’t know how to deal with. At the same time in the nation’s capital a group of first generation immigrant children is carrying out an ingenious strategy of scaring and accusing unsure native Swedish kids so they would give up their cell phones. What ensues is a slowly developing psychological game that cuts straight into the nerve of Scandinavians who are spoiled by a false sense of security and not prepared for change. Östlund does this with style, perfecting the one-shot strategy we know from his hit short film Incident by a Bank. Razor-sharp photography underlines the precision with which the director processes his observations of the surroundings. At the end, the worlds of children and adults are not so significantly different, apart from the fact that the rules in child’s play may change in mid-game. Just like in any game, an incredible, ironical humour bubbles under the surface of Play." (Anton Asikainen)

AA: My first sampler of the work of Ruben Östlund, one of the most acclaimed contemporary Nordic directors. I watched most of it and was impressed by the absolute authenticity of the performances in the "little brother" plot. A group of immigrant children approaches a smaller group of younger native Swedish children to ask them what time it is. When they check it from a mobile phone, one of the immigrants says "it's exactly like the one that was stolen from my little brother". They want to examine it... and a long and winding chain of events is launched. Although the print was reportedly in 35 mm, it has been struck from a digital source with a surveillance camera look. Ruben Östlund reverts to the early cinema mode of long takes and long shots, in favour in contemporary art cinema.

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