Thursday, April 12, 2012

King of Devil's Island (NORWEGIAN DVD REVIEW)

King of Devil's Island
(Kongen av Bastoy)
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Historical Drama Recounts Real-Life Reform School Rebellion

Based on actual events, this character-driven drama recounts the harrowing, real-life ordeal of juvenile males isolated from civilization at Bastoy, a reform school located on a fjord just outside Oslo, Norway. The story unfolds in the winter of 1915, which is when we find the institution being run by Warden Bestyreren (Stellan Skarsgard), a disciplinarian with little tolerance for lip.
The tyrannical taskmaster exacts slave labor from each of his young delinquents and is assisted in this endeavor by a loyal staff headed by his sadistic henchman, Brathen (Kristoffer Joner). Barely surviving the elements on such a frozen, godforsaken tundra would be challenging enough for any teen shipped away from home, but when you throw in the diabolical prescription of rehabilitation by torture you have a quite predictable prescription for disaster.
One kid who refuses to let his soul be broken is Erling (Benjamin Helstad), aka inmate C-19, even though the mistreatment might be too much for his pal, C-5, I mean, Ivar (Magnus Langlete). So, it is no surprise that it might fall to the former to incite a revolt, and what eventually ensues might best be described as a Nordic cross of Moby Dick and Escape from Alcatraz, between a desperate, aquatic jailbreak and a profusion of whale hunt allusions.
Realistic enough to give you chills, King of Devil's Island convincingly takes you back a century to a time when sparing the rod was definitely considered spoiling the child. Not exactly what I’d describe as a feelgood flick, but rather a sobering reminder that despite the debate surrounding the easy availability of Ritalin and Adderall, we’ve still come a long way from some less-enlightened methods of dealing with rebellious adolescents with attention-deficit issues.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
In Norwegian with subtitles.
Running time: 116 minutes
Distributor: Film Movement
DVD Extras: A short film from Britain directed by Al Mackay entitled “Bale.”

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