Devil’s Playground, The (1976)

Devil’s Playground, The (1976)

“An undisciplined mind is the devil’s playground.”

Synopsis:
An Australian boy (Simon Burke) comes of age at a Catholic boarding school in the 1950s.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Australian Films
  • Boarding School
  • Coming-of-Age
  • Priests and Ministers
  • Sexuality

Review:
This episodic coming-of-age tale by Australian director Fred Schepisi is inaccurately marketed as a sensationalized tale of sexuality — indeed, one DVD cover features a strategically-chosen, non-representative still which immediately evokes the threat of pedophilia.

In actuality, this subject is never dealt with; instead, the priests in Devil’s Playground are portrayed as well-meaning, eminently human, and (for the most part) kind. (One particularly surprising scene shows two priests out on the town, tempted to pick up women they meet at a bar).

While the narrative in The Devil’s Playground is concerned with sexuality — as is nearly every movie about adolescence — its portrayal is honest and multi-faceted rather than prurient. This remains a worthy entry in the vast coming-of-age genre.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Simon Burke’s appealing, natural performance
  • A refreshingly humanizing look at priests
  • A sensitive portrayal of male adolescence and sexuality
  • Fine period detail

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

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One thought on “Devil’s Playground, The (1976)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    True, the title is misleading. And yet it isn’t… and yet it is. It seems to hold the ‘promise’ of something more provocative.

    This is a film that requires some patience (and a very definite interest in or curiosity about the subject matter and its atmosphere), so most likely it won’t be to the more-average film fanatic’s taste.

    It’s not a bad film, for what it is. When he’s at his best, Schepisi is an interesting filmmaker. (This is a more-rare instance in which he wrote the screenplay – which, in 2014, he apparently also co-adapted as a tv mini-series.) But be prepared for a lot of angst about sexual feelings, as well as some heavy lecturing on ‘fire and damnation’.

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