The Devil's Playground

Devil's Playground, The (Fred Schepisi, 1976) wr. prod. Fred Schepisi, dp Ian Baker; Simon Burke, Arthur Dignam, Tom Kenneally, John Diedrich, Sheila Florance, John Frawley, Jonathan Hardy, Charles McCallum, Nick Tate; Melbourne, colour, 35mm, 107 min.

Catholic culture oppressing both the priests and the boys in a seminary: based on Schepisi's own experience in a Catholic school.

A few reservations expressed by critics - especially over a heavily stressed performance by Arthur Dignam, whose 'portrait of celibacy gone mad [was] all staring eyes and starting nerves' (Bulletin, 21 August 1976) - were overshadowed by the welcome given to the film for its emotional force and perceptions about boyhood. P P McGuinness in the National Times, 6-11 September 1976, applauded its 'remarkable degree of psychological truth' and its sensitive central portrait of the artist as a young boy: Simon Burke 'is the appropriate mix of charm and awkwardness, sniggering embarrassment and simple goodness, which makes the part into one of the really memorable child portraits of the cinema'. Pike & Cooper: 303-304.


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