Sometimes cinema is at its most potent and engrossing when it’s stripped right down to the necessities. Playground, the completed, uncomfortably highly effective first function from the Belgian writer-director Laura Wandel, is a lean 72 minutes in size, with no rating and a lithe, instinctive, handheld digicam that not often leaves the face of seven-year-old Nora (Maya Vanderbeque, very good). It’s piercingly insightful with out ever labouring the purpose.
The movie Nora’s well-meaning try and intervene when she sees her older brother Abel (Günter Duret) focused, exploring the way in which that bullying spreads like a stain by way of a main and center faculty group; how the taint of victimhood can override the bonds of friendship and household; and the way doing the fitting factor can backfire catastrophically.
Playground’s French title, Un monde, interprets as “a world”, and the college is simply that: the squat, blocky buildings and treacherous strip of asphalt are a hostile and inescapable setting. There isn’t a respite – both for the viewers or for the children who discover themselves outcasts within the semi-feral pack dynamic of childhood.
Frédéric Noirhomme’s digicam is nearly a personality within the story. It hovers at kids’s eye degree, nervy in an unforgiving bluish, bruised color palette, solely often permitting an grownup to slide totally into focus. A sympathetic instructor (Laura Verlinden) is one; Nora and Abel’s father and, we assume, fundamental carer (Karim Leklou) is one other. However equally spectacular is the sound: with the digicam locked on Nora’s tearful saucer eyes, a lot of the strain is created, vividly, exterior the body. It’s a outstanding achievement.