I sometimes wonder how accurately I’m remembering recess from elementary school. It was 15 minutes of pure chaos that sometimes descended into near race riots. By the school entrance, there were a few adults whose entire function was to yell to students when it was time to line up. During the actual recess time, all the kids ran down to the grass with a football and played something called Kill the Man With the Ball.
The ambiguity of the title might have you think that we were hitting each other with a ball, but it was just an unorganized game of tackle football where one person had the ball and everyone else tried to tackled him. Hard. The race element came later on when it seemed the different groups would gather together and try to destroy each other. It’s a miracle that no one got seriously hurt. It was like a miniature Lord of the Flies every day around 10:30.
To this day, I don’t know how much of this the teachers were aware of. Was it just a “boys will be boys” kind of thing? Not sure, but they weren’t even a factor that any of the kids considered. As far as we were concerned, they weren’t even there. It was sort of like Massacre at Central High. The adults weren’t explained out of the story slasher movie style. They existed; they just weren’t ever there.
The 1995 movie The Prophecy caught a little bit of that magic. During recess, the kids are able to sneak off into an abandoned building to hang out with a dying angel. In their defense though, they thought he was just a regular dying vagrant.
It’s about one second of screen time that always tickles me though. As the teacher is handing out playground balls, one little boy picks one up and bounces it off of another kid’s head. That, in and of itself, is not all that curious, but they way it was shot was so perfect.
First off, either the kid on the receiving end of the ball is either the best actor I’ve ever seen, or this was completely unexpected. He doesn’t tense up, flinch, or prepare for this blow in any way. It makes me wonder how that played out on set. Was it rehearsed where he just took the ball and ran and, if so, whose idea was it to nail the bigger kid during the actual take? I think the two prime suspects are the actor and the director.
The shot cuts away immediately after too, so it makes me think the kid on the receiving end broke character to either yell, “What the hell?” or to beat the shit out of the peckerhead who hit him. Either way, I would love to catch some outtakes or behind the scenes footage from this scene.
I really know nothing about how this shot went down, but it completely gives the impression of spontaneity that is hard to capture in a pre-planned scene. It usually seems so obvious when a movie is trying to fake it, to say nothing of reality TV. I love that this is a completely inconsequential scene to the rest of the movie. I can’t imagine that it would be worth it to try to craft the scene as such. Everything worked out perfectly though and this is definitely one of those moments to bottle up and treasure.