Saturday, January 17, 2015

Play (2011)

Director: Ruben Östlund
Writers:  Ruben Östlund ,Erik Hemmendorff
Cast:       Lisbeth Caspersson, Kevin Vaz, Johan Jonason
Language: Swedish

Inspired by actual court cases, the film portrays a group of black boys aged 12-14 who rob a smaller group of white boys by means of psychological bullying tactics. Their modus operandi is to ask the victim to show his phone which they claim resembles the one that was robbed last week from one of their brothers. They insist that they should confirm the identity with the said brother and proceed to bully them further. 

The film takes a look at the modern Scandinavian/Liberal society's attitude when it comes to dealing with immigrant issues. The film is not really about bullying even though it is based on an actual case of the same. The director, in a totally genius fashion, makes the liberal left confront their own usual selves where Political Correctness gone mad and nanny states have produced what can be called as reverse-racism. We have all faced bullying in our lives at some point or the other and the hate that it generates towards the one who is bullying can be of epic proportions. There is one scene during the film where a group of people confront the bullying boys and intimidate the shit out of them. At that point I really wanted them to beat the shit out of those boys. I have seen people justifying ragging by seniors in college as a process which will help in reducing inhibitions, but in practice it is just a form of bullying where all the insecurities of people who does it come out of woodwork. It is indeed a big issue in India.

In parallel to the bullying story, the director inter-cuts into a train in-between where the conductor is worried about an unattended cradle in the coach. He makes announcements alerting the passengers of its existence which is against safety standards and asks the owner to come and claim it. When no one shows up, he again makes further announcements and finally tells them that it will be removed at the next station. When he is about to remove it, his colleague tells him something which prompts him to take it back and again make the announcement but this time in English. A bemused passenger quips that the next announcement will be in German. Director is using this plot-line to show the nanny-stateness of Scandinavia which might be an explanation for their softness and political correctness. The film would be of much relevance these days especially after the Charlie Hebdo incident. In my opinion the policy of multiculturalism is madness. All efforts should be made to integrate the immigrants into your country so that that they will uphold the same values like Liberty, Free-Speech etc because otherwise it will breed resentment. What you are doing through multiculturalism is delaying your own confrontation with the issue of racism and class struggles and when the confrontation happens inevitably it will be much more difficult than if you had gone for integration.

In the last sequence of the film, one of the parents of the bullied confronts one of the bullies who is sitting in a bench with his brother and the cradle. The encounter become physical even as the father tries to explain the situation to him. A by-stander takes exception to this and accuses him of racism at which point he accuses her of reverse-racism. The father would represent most of us in the audience. Some will interpret the film as very racist but that would me missing the point completely. The film triggered havey debates in Swedish press with some from the liberal left accusing the director of racism, completely missing the irony of it. The film is not a mirror on immigrants but one on the native Swedes. How and when the cradle end up in the train is not explained.

Film is characterized by the director's trademark of extremely long takes with a largely still camera. We get to look from a distance what is happening. Ostlund's 'Force Majeure' is among my top three from last year. All three films I have seen so far from him have been great and I am gonna finish his filmography soon.

Rating: 5/5