Based on a true story, King of Devil’s Island, or Kongen av Bastøy in it’s original Norway, is one of those rare films that I often find myself returning to time and again. In fact, of my two favorite movies, there’s one that makes me feel nostalgic (and sad – yes, I love depressing movies; case in point: this one) and one that really moves me, more so than any movie I’ve ever watched, and that is King of Devil’s Island.
It follows Erling, a young man who has committed a crime and been sent to serve time in the Bastøy Boys Reform School, a place for troubled young boys. It’s located in the Oslo fjord, surrounded by icy cold water on all sides. Right off the bat, the cinematography is beautiful, no question. The scenery in this movie is unendingly gorgeous, and stark. So is the script.
Once there, Erling is placed in group C with a bunch of other boys, Ivar who arrives the same day as him, and Olav, known as C-1, the leader of the group. The movie revolves around the three’s different experiences on the island.
They don’t particularly start off on good terms. Erling and Olav are two very different boys, the former someone who wants to go by his own rules, whereas Olav is the perfect example of how the boys are expected to be; someone who listens to the rules and doesn’t say no. Ivar, too, doesn’t do so well. Much thinner and not as physically fit as the other’s, Ivar struggles in his new environment and wishes to escape just like Erling does.
This is one movie that should not be gone into lightly. It deals with several dark themes, such as mental and physical abuse, the repercussions of which create a domino effect the upsets the already shaky ground they stand on.
The boys are forced to exist in inhumane conditions, something Erling refuses to do, and so he sets out to escape the island – much to the chagrin of the home’s Governor, played by one of my favorite actors, Stellan Skarsgård. The young actors, and of course Stellan, were superb in this film. I would gladly watch them together again (please?).
This movie starts with a story from Erling’s past and, as his story begins to unravel throughout the film, the metaphor begins to take on new meaning, and ultimately ensnares the viewer when the film comes to a close.
I don’t want to say too much, because I went into this movie not knowing anything about it and so don’t want to ruin the film’s end, because not knowing really allowed the film to have an effect on me that I won’t soon forget – thank god. It’s one of those movies that is hard to beat and what I feel many directors should strive for: something to live on in its viewers.
Watch and let me know what you think – I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Also, since I shared my favorite movie, let me know what your’s is!
Until next time,