New this week On Demand from Uncork’d Entertainment; help me out and pick it up on Amazon here


Directed by Bartosz M. Kowalski
Written by Bartosz M. Kowalski, Stanislaw Warwas
Starring Michalina Swistun, Nicolas Przygoda, Przemyslaw Balinski, Patryk Swiderski, Pawel Brandys, Anita Jancia, Pawel Karolak, Malgorzata Olczyk, Bartlomiej Milczarek, Mikolaj Zamorski, Karolina Czajka, Marta Grabysz, Joanna Kurek, Adam Rosolek, Pawel Krawczyk, Lena Gruszka
Find out more about this film here

When I see the words, “Based on True Events” I become both leery and creeped out. Those words are tossed around quite a bit these days, so sometimes that’s put in front of films simply to add more heft. Then again, when it really is based on true events, I can’t help but feel a chill go down my spine because there’s a twisted kind of voyeurism feel that I am not comfortable with while watching a film with so little fictionality to buffer the violence. THE PLAYGROUND falls into the latter category as it takes an unflinching look at a trio of children bereft of any of the romanticism and innocence that often are associated to children in the movies.

Gabrysia (Michalina Swistun) has a crush on Szymek (Nicolas Przygoda) and plans to ask him on a date on the last day of school. Szymek is much more interested in taking photographs and hanging out with his best buddy Czarek (Przemyslaw Balinski). The storyline at first poses these three characters into a collision course, but after a disturbing confrontation, the film then follows Szymek and Czarek through the rest of the day hanging at the mall, hoping to check out new video games at the store, and abducting a younger child in broad daylight.

THE PLAYGROUND is a harrowing and disturbing look at the pointlessness of violence. The young boys seem to look as innocent as can be, but this film seems to want to make a point that even the most innocent can be capable of the most atrocious acts. This is not a movie that is easy to sit through. The confrontation between Gabrysia and Szymek is uncomfortable to watch, simply because of the harmless innocence behind this exchange. But these are children, forced into adulthood by their parents and not knowing what to do with these tools. Because of that, they act out violently and while it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given the fact that this violence seems to be so avoidable and so pointless.

Both the confrontation with Gabrysia and the abduction of the child from the mall is going to be too much for many to handle. I’ve seen some of the goriest stuff out there, but was chilled to my core at what goes on in this film. Writer/director Bartosz M. Kowalski and his co-writer Stanislaw Warwas never let the camera blink or turn away from even the most inhuman of events that go on. The final moments of this film, taken from a distance away from the action, is a long uncut shot of some of the most heinous of imagery I’ve seen in film. What got to me is that the violence is taken in such a passé manner. THE PLAYGROUND is going to remind you of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE in the way it nonchalantly depicts its violence, as if to say, this kind of thing happens all of the time. Filmed in a Gus Van Sant like documentarian style that follows the children rather than guides them from one scene to the next, THE PLAYGROUND has some star-making performances and some images that will sear into your mind. You can’t unsee this violent and compelling film. You’ve been warned.

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