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PLAY

Director: RUBEN ÖSTLUND

118 minutes, Sweden-France-Denmark, 2011, Subtitled, Colour, D-Cinema


SCREENING EXCLUSIVELY AT THE IFI

As he showed in his striking previous feature Involuntary, Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund is fascinated by the blend of social conditioning and individual psychology which makes us do the things we do. Here he responds to the very real issue of street-gangs in Stockholm, where groups of black immigrant teens prey on more affluent middle-class white kids.

In brilliantly-staged unblinking long-takes, we see how the attackers exploit their victims’ conflicted perceptions of ethnic minorities, torn between politically-correct passive acceptance and folk-devil paranoia – while the aggressors also enjoy the theatricality of their power games as much as the smartphone swag they claim from it.

This is a risky storytelling strategy (there’s no way the film would have got funded in the UK or Ireland), yet its intelligent provocation leaves us the productive task of unpicking the telling links between social inequality and toxic cultural branding. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.) 

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