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Two boys quarrel about a toy pistol. The game becomes serious. On the roof in a skyskraper district they risk their lifes for the toy pistol.

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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Ian Ellis ...
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Two boys quarrel about a toy pistol. The game becomes serious. On the roof in a skyskraper district they risk their lifes for the toy pistol.

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Drama | Short | War

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15 September 1966 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

Le jeu de la guerre  »

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THE WAR GAME {Short} (Mai Zetterling, 1963) **1/2
16 January 2014 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

After the August 1963 premier of this short film at the Venice Film Festival and the later one in December of her current film THE MAN WHO FINALLY DIED (co-starring Stanley Baker and Peter Cushing – which I own but have yet to watch), Swedish actress Mai Zetterling would only ever appear in a few more movies in her lifetime. Perhaps it was her winning the Best Short category in Venice that decided her in abandoning a 20-year-old career in front of the cameras for a more rewarding one behind it. Whatever the case may be, her best directorial achievements came in the first decade of her transition, were made in collaboration with her writer/husband David Hughes and culminated in her being one of several international film-makers to helm an episode from the official 1972 Munich Olympics film, VISIONS OF EIGHT (1973).

Although I own a trio of her other more renowned works, THE WAR GAME – not to be confused with Peter Watkins' later anti-nuclear short that was eventually banned by the BBC – is the first of her efforts that I am watching. The 15-minute short has a simple enough premise: two young lads (ostensibly left in the care of the indolent grandfather of one of them) spend a lazy Sunday afternoon chasing one another with toy guns, firstly through the desolate London streets, then through the staircases of a block of flats and, finally, up on the perilous rooftops. Just as the blonde-haired antagonist is about to slip and fatally lose his grip, he clutches the shirt of the dark-haired protagonist; this life-saving event seems the right thing to make of them lifelong pals thereafter…if only the former's real gun had not fallen to the ground and their subsequent tussle for its possession leads to the predictable tragedy occurring offscreen! While not a particularly great film, it is sensitively and unobtrusively observed and, given the increasingly indoor nature of children's relaxation, one does wonder if such incidents can still happen 50 years on…


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