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Fred Schepisi's film, 'The Devil's Playground' is an intimate portrait of Tom, a thirteen-year-old struggling in spirit and body with the constraints of living in a Catholic seminary. It is also the story of the Brothers and how they cope with the demands of their faith. Written by
A titillating title like "The Devil's Playground" suggests some very wicked scenes and lustful action to follow. Fred Schepisi goes about as far as the censor permits in revealing life among boys and staff of a highly disciplined Catholic College. The atmosphere of the College is well captured in the classrooms, the noisy refectory during mealtimes, the playing fields and private lake.
The Devil it seems likes to act at night or in dark shadows where boys in the throes of puberty discuss the mysterious happenings of wet dreams and contemplate the best ways of masturbating. When seeking advice from the brothers, the students are told to exert more self-discipline and say more prayers to overcome such sinful acts.
While the problems of puberty are laid bare in this film. the group of frustrated brothers with their difficult vows of celibacy are not overlooked. One gets the feeling that the strict code of discipline at all levels is far from the perfect system.
In one way or another, there is a lot of exposure of flesh whether it be in the College shower room, swimming in the lake or peeking at full-bodied girls in the nearby recreational area. This heightens the idea of the sins of the flesh.
Some of the brothers like to dress in civilian clothes when released from duty and become part of the outside world. Drinking beer at the local tavern and even chatting with the girls! Yes, temptation abounds in every corner of the Devil's Playground.
The film with its many players and short scenes is almost a documentation of the strengths and frailties of life in the Catholic education system. Fred Schepisi gives us a broad statement of the problems of the era but no real answers. He does however hint that, as a basis for a future life there is much lacking in the system.
On the whole, interesting...and a great basis for further discussion.
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