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 ...
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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.Written by
Despite having spent much of the film frustrated at the technique used, I found myself unable to turn away and powerfully affected by the end. Shot with static cameras and long takes, sometimes with nothing happening on screen, the film makes us reluctant voyeurs in the same way that passers-by neither intervene nor quite ignore any drama in a public place. The effect is close to found footage from CCTV, with the action taking place in the background or even completely out of shot. The truth is that this could be happening anywhere in the world, right in front of us, and we would not necessarily know. The bullies have refined their tactics and each knows his role within the overall plan. The targets are slowly but surely trapped in a nightmare where bystanders are seeing everything and nothing. There is a scene where the victims ask for support from coffee shop staff but are unable to express their fears in a way that invites help. I would predict that most of us would be as reluctant as the baristas to call the police, or as unsympathetic as the tram workers who catch the children travelling without tickets.
Although filmed in Sweden and featuring older children, Play has overtones of the James Bulger case in UK, with the group developing rules almost independently of its members. Even the victims become complicit, calling back a child who attempts to escape, evoking ideas of Stockholm syndrome and horrific wartime collaborations.
The final scene adds nothing to the story apart from reversing ethnicities, but by then the impact has been felt. The story is frighteningly believable and compelling viewing.
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