A prickly, piercing sense of fear chills Ruben Östlund’s drama – which is Haneke-like in its incitement of both dread and deep thought. The film is inspired by a bullying case in Gothenburg, Sweden, between 2006 and 2008 and follows a group of boys who concoct elaborate, psychologically twisted schemes to rob other children.
The film is initially uncomfortable to watch, seeming to flirt with dangerous stereotypes about the bullying group (whose members are black). Yet this couldn’t be further from Östlund’s agenda. He’s aiming to say something instead about the insularity and naivety of Swedish society, to shine a light on double standards of the middle-class (to which the bullied boys belong). Witty as well as serious, this is a film that asks us to ultimately reflect on the thin line that children teeter on between play and bullying. David Katz