Film Review: King Of Devil’s Island

I’m not sure where this film is available, but it screened at the film festival this past week.

It’s a Norwegian film that won best picture at the Norwegian film awards this year. I have to say, it deserved it. It’s based on true events from the country’s own history. In 1915, a boy’s prison reformatory school is rocked among accusations of sexual abuse between one of the Dorm’s House Father and several young boys. When one of the victims commits suicide on the island, Olav finds memories of his own abuse surfacing. In a response to the Governor’s (or headmaster’s) lack of action, the boys respond in their own way and stage a revolt against the tyrannous Governor and House Father.

The film is beautifully shot and incredibly moody – the entire time I thought I could feel the freezing chill of the wind off the water. Thanks to the blue tones in the color correction and the visible breath in most shots, when the boys are freezing, you feel right there with them.

The story was incredibly well written – it was fairly standard structurally but was, by no means boring or predictable. It’s a character driven piece and revolves around the budding friendship of Olav and Ehrling, a newcomer with an attitude. Olav is the good one, the boy who does everything right and has for the last six years – that’s why he is going home soon. Ehrling doesn’t believe in the discipline they use at the reformatory school, and he ends up doing extra work or sleeping in solitary often. He brings to light the issues of the school, the secrets that are buried deep down in the layers of snow. He teaches Olav that it is more noble to stand up for what is right, then to ignore the issues for one’s own gain.

The two leads, first time Norwegian actors playing the 17 year old Olav and Ehrling, were incredible. Their talent was natural, raw, and mesmerizing.

If you can find it, watch this film. It’s beautiful.

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