When Nora witnesses Abel being bullied by other kids, she rushes to protect him. But Abel forces her to remain silent. Caught in a conflict of loyalty, Nora tries to find her place, torn between children's and adults' worlds.
"From the opening shot, Playground makes the commitment of placing the camera at the children’s height and eye-level, cutting the adults out of the frame. As Nora’s circles of trust expand and contract, Wandel adjusts the focus of the camera to let certain faces in while blurring others out. This attention is millimetric in its precision and remains as close to Nora as the rhythm of her own breathing; every tiny bit of confidence she gains widens the shot, while the slightest threat she perceived shrinks the space around her. [...] It is tempting to want to soothe the fears that well up as we watch Playground by saying its only kid’s stuff, it will pass, everyone goes through it, or even by trying to enlarge the story’s minute scale to make it mean something greater about society and integration. But once you step into Nora’s world it is impossible to take a step back, and I think that is one of the greatest achievements of the film."
(from the introduction by Zeynep Aygun, Comparative Literature, Brown University)
"Wandel’s film strikingly overturns this common sense of children’s invisibility. In particular, her camera work follows the two young protagonists—Nora and Abel—by looking at them in the eyes, placing itself at their height, thus showing in a documentary-like fashion a complex world (un monde) hidden within the playground, where violence has to be seen. Some free-spirited questions of mine: to witness and stay silent, or to witness and speak up? Can you hide low, low, low in a swimming pool? How deep is the sea/see (the water, the eye)? ... As the psychiatrist Ronald Laing wrote: 'They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.' "
(from the introduction by Giovanna Conti, Italian Studies, Brown University)