Playground, The, A Dark Journey Into Childhood
Director: Bartosz M. Kowalski
Writer(s): Bartosz M. Kowalski, Stanislaw Warwas
Release Date: November 18, 2016 (Poland), December 8, 2017
Release Format: Video on Demand
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Running Time: 1 hr, 22 min
Final day of school in a small Polish town. It’s the very last chance for a 12 year old Gabrysia to tell her classmate that she had fallen in love with him. She sets up a secret meeting and blackmails the boy to show up. But what was supposed to be an intimate talk spins out of control and leads to an unexpected ending.
Plac Zabaw, or The Playground released on November 18, 2016 in England. It got a worldwide release on December 8, 2017 on Video On Demand. The engrossing Poland Drama, Thriller directed by Bartosz M. Kowalski and Co-written by Stanislaw Warwas. Distributed by Uncork’d Entertainment.
The Playground divides into 6 parts. Parts 1, 2 and 3 centers on the personal lives of adolescents Gabrysia, Szymek, and Czarek, who all attend the same school.
Gabrysia has a crush on Szymek. On the last day of school, she plans to express how she feels towards him. Observation suggests that she is a rather quiet, shy and reserved girl, who doesn’t have many friends or doesn’t have much of a social life beyond school.
Szymek cares for his father (Pawel Karolak) who’s paralyzed and wheelchair-bound. This plays out rather bittersweet as Szymek transforms from a sweet and caring son to violent and abusive towards his father.
Czarek grows agitated by his baby brother who cries, his mother (Bartlomiej Milczarek) who appears to force unwanted responsibilities on him, and his older brother, who bosses him around and is insulting towards him. Czarek also gains startling pleasure in torturing helpless animals and children.
Part 4 takes place in Szkola (School). The students are preparing for graduation commencement. This is also where Gabrysia gets help from a classmate in setting up a date with Szymek.
Part 5 called Ruiny (Ruins). Gabrysia plans to meet with Szymek to expression her feelings towards him. Czarek also tags along, unbeknownst to Gabrysia. This turns out for the worst as Gabrysia discovers that, not only does Szymek not share her same feelings, but she finds herself embarrassed, humiliated, and tormented by Szymek and Czarek.
Part 6 called Plac Zabaw (Playground). After the encounter with Gabrysia, Szymek and Czarek go to the mall to hang out. They encounter a little boy (Patryk Swiderski) who they abduct from his mother. They take him out to play with him. This innocent play soon turns deadly. When the boy cries out and get away from them, Szymek and Czarek have other, sinister plans in mind.
The Playground is the dark and unnerving side of childhood. It delves into the minds of deranged adolescents who have troubling issues going on within their personal lives. This dramatically influences their entire personality and being affects the world around them. Other films that can relate to Plac Zabaw is KIDS (Larry Clark, 1995) and Gummo (Harmony Korine, 1997).
The cast performances by the top three cast leads are astounding. To be such a young age and take their roles as they do was exciting to see on the screen. The production is executed well, its equivalent to watching a nonfictional documentary production or a real life snuff film.
The plot and story are innovative. Although the central theme of deranged and violent kids is no longer new, it’s still considered a taboo, not only in Horror cinema, but in society. This is one of most sensitive subjects in thoughts of cinema. While most films will only show minimal acts of children and violence, Kowalski digs deeper.
Zac Zabaw is horrifying from a psychological standpoint. The intense buildup plays out with interwoven scenes and acts of senseless brutality enough to make you shy away from the screen time-to-time.
1. In Conclusion
The Playground is an innovative, groundbreaking emotional Drama. Kowalski has explored the life of dark childhood, and he does it well. There is a love-hate response to this production. You love it because it is a great film. It’s gripping and brutal. You hate it for the actions that take place that can make some seasoned Horror enthusiasts shake out of pure shock. This is one of few productions that travel outside of the boundaries and down those dark, forbidden corners that most directors and filmmakers don’t even dare to travel.