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also known as Kongen av Bastøy

King of Devil's Island2010

  • 4.2
This true story of the infamous Bastøy Boys Home correctional facility in Norway, begins with the arrival of seventeen-year-old Erling, a rumored murderer. He immediately clashes with the island facility's governor (Stellan Skarsgård), who believes manual labor, rigid discipline and harsh punishment are the only methods that can turn the boys into honorable members of society. Refusing to accept the constant abuse, Erling slowly rouses the rest of the boys out of their resigned existence and encourages them to fight to lift up their spirits. When tragedy finally falls at the hand of the sadistic dorm master, Erling leads his comrades in a courageous and vicious rebellion that will bring them head to head with no less than the Norwegian Army.

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3 members like this review

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

– Lord Acton

King of Devil’s Island is a tragic tale of unchecked power, and what that power inevitably leads to. Based very closely on real events , the story takes place in early 20th century Norway, at a correctional facility for the worst, and most troubled, juvenile offenders. The official name of the facility is Bastøy Boys Home, but it’s simply called Devil’s Island by its inhabitants, and rightly so. The island is surrounded by sheets of ice due to the brutal cold, in which the boys labor every day. The abuse mounted on them by the guards and teachers only adds to the miserable conditions they face.

The warden of the facility is the daunting Bestyreren, played by international talent Stellan Skarsgård. He is tall, imposing, and exacting. Most importantly he is a man who had big dreams for his life and has seen them dissolve into thin air. His passion for his institution is powerful but has become twisted. No doubt Devil’s Island was created with noble intentions, but isolation and power have turned instruction into dictatorship and discipline into cruelty.

In the end, the men who think they have all the power create their own destruction through the mistreatment of the boys. King of Devil’s Island is a moral tale about the dangers of power and misplaced passion. The bleak photography of John Andreas Andersen and the haunting score by Johan Soderqvist combine to create a sense of awe and helplessness. But the rousing performances by the boys save the film from being a total depress fest. There is a strength of spirit there that cannot be broken, and in the end the story is also about hope and victory over the impossible.

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Member Reviews (4)

180197.small
top reviewer

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

– Lord Acton

King of Devil’s Island is a tragic tale of unchecked power, and what that power inevitably leads to. Based very closely on real events , the story takes place in early 20th century Norway, at a correctional facility for the worst, and most troubled, juvenile offenders. The official name of the facility is Bastøy Boys Home, but it’s simply called Devil’s Island by its inhabitants, and rightly so. The island is surrounded by sheets of ice due to the brutal cold, in which the boys labor every day. The abuse mounted on them by the guards and teachers only adds to the miserable conditions they face.

The warden of the facility is the daunting Bestyreren, played by international talent Stellan Skarsgård. He is tall, imposing, and exacting. Most importantly he is a man who had big dreams for his life and has seen them dissolve into thin air. His passion for his institution is powerful but has become twisted. No doubt Devil’s Island was created with noble intentions, but isolation and power have turned instruction into dictatorship and discipline into cruelty.

In the end, the men who think they have all the power create their own destruction through the mistreatment of the boys. King of Devil’s Island is a moral tale about the dangers of power and misplaced passion. The bleak photography of John Andreas Andersen and the haunting score by Johan Soderqvist combine to create a sense of awe and helplessness. But the rousing performances by the boys save the film from being a total depress fest. There is a strength of spirit there that cannot be broken, and in the end the story is also about hope and victory over the impossible.

3 members like this review
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top reviewer

Some movies leave the viewer heartbroken and stick in the mind like an untreated wound. King of Devil's Island is such. To be haunted by these images from another century's time speaks to how powerful the story is. Man's severity to man, especially to the perceived underclass that these boys represent still shocks the modern eye. Everything about this film looks and feels right. It has the seeming power of documentary but is of the highest artistic order. Fiction like this, based on a true to life account and captured with the immediacy of the camera, overpowers the mind and heart of any viewer. This is a bleak, sad cinema verité of the highest artistic order. It has no use for sentimentality; the tragic coming of age of Norwegian society is what is at stake here. Rehabilitation of boys cannot be done with sticks and stones. This can only lead to breakage, despair and tragedy. King of Devil's Island can only be seen with hindsight for the first viewing is nothing short of heartache at how the world was well-meaning but still severely mean, not so long ago. And still is in places in the world where the establishment rules with harsh truths and an insufferable God's version of mercy (Aghanistan, Uganda, Palestine). This film is not easy to watch but is so necessary for the mind and heart of any thinking/feeling person.

3 members like this review

Beautiful film. Alot of good young actors

1 member likes this review
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This is a real thriller. Scary in the truest sense because it IS TRUE. This gives a totally different picture of life--that of the flotsam known a delinquent boys a hundreds years ago. There is so much power here. The acting is spot on, the scenery breathtaking, and the story shocking. Highest recommendation