Anybody familiar with the filmography of Michael Haneke will certainly be able to trace his influence in Ruben Ostlund’s Play. The long, masterfully shot takes, the feeling of the audience being held for uncomfortable periods of time, the heightened sense of reality and the stripped down nature of Haneke’s films are all recognised in Play. However, the film has a life of its own and makes for disarming and necessary viewing.
Focusing on a group of boys aged 12 to 14, Play is an account of the psychological torment they inflict on the children that they have robbed. The title itself comes from the ritual they use to snare their victims and the advanced role play they utilise in achieving their goods. After the gang have robbed several others, they come across three boys around their own age who are also thieves. The rest of the film hones in on the victims, as the robbers become constantly more demanding.
Ostlund’s decision to cast non-professional actors furthers the rawness of the film and they are eminently believable and captivating. The story itself as social commentary is alarmingly universal. One of the young robbers states: “What do I know about society?” and this speaks volumes about the disillusioned and often neglected teenagers in western societies.
Play is an urgent film and a compelling one too. The film-making is captivating, the story is brilliantly told and the cinematography is outstanding. It will be interesting to see what direction Ostlund takes in his next film, for if he continues to show the directorial ability as he has demonstrated with Play, he will be set to become an important figure in foreign cinema.
Play is released nationwide on 12th July 2013.
Watch the trailer for Play here