It's another sweltering day in New York, and in order to avoid melting into my seat, I try to find a cold and refreshing film that will save me from the heat. After some research, I find Playground by Mark Kuczewski, a short film that had creeped me out the first time I watched it. I believe that some films are made to be watched only once, whereas others can be watched over and over again. This, of course, depends on your tolerance, your threshold. I have a relatively high one, and I'm usually OK with watching whatever. Since I was a little kid, I had a "bring it on" attitude when it came to movies. My parents never told me not to watch anything, so I watched everything that I could get my eyes on.
Playground is a tough film to watch. It's one of those films that makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, and the funny thing is you're never exactly sure why you feel that way. I have a whole list of movies that go into this category. A Clockwork Orange by Kubrick, Antichrist by Von Trier, Requiem for a Dream by Aronofsky are some examples. I saw these films only once, and I need a pretty good reason to watch them again. Don't get me wrong; these are great films that already left their imprints in film history as many critics and film buffs agree, yet there's something in all of them that pushes your buttons. I'd like to put Playground in this list. When you watch Playground, you won't see the violence you do in the movies I listed above. You won't be that disturbed either. But, there's an element in Playground that runs parallel to the edginess of Kubrick, Von Trier, and Aronofsky. It's an 8 minute short, but it makes you twist and turn in your chair. The suspense creeps up under your skin, and you develop an antagonistic relationship with the main character.
...which brings me to the plot. To avoid spoilers, I'll briefly mention what goes on in the film. When the film starts, we are immediately introduced to Gordon, a man whose face covers almost the entire screen. Half of his face is in complete darkness, and the other half is slightly lit. You're not sure if he's laying on the floor or sitting up. But, once he starts speaking, you know he's trouble. Gordon tells you about his childhood a bit. We get to learn about his mother, how other kids used to pick on him, his weird habits, etc. The story revolves around a road trip, where Gordon takes the driver's seat and picks up Kate, a hitchhiker looking for a ride. Gordon tells Kate that a girl like her should have no problem getting a lift. Kate tells Gordon that she doesn't have any family. And you'll have to watch the film to find out what happens between the two.
The best thing about Playground is the mood that director Kuczewski was able to create. What makes the movie is the acting and the way these characters deliver their lines. The lighting, which is minimal, is a smart choice that goes perfectly with the tone of the film. The dialog is interesting, and the narration of Gordon is creepy in the best way possible. And for all these reasons, Playground is the film that I'm recommending this week. Wherever you are, whether it's hot or cold, it's always good to explore the dark side.
Watch the movie here: