The violence of power and the power of violence are both explored beautifully in King of Devil’s Island. A true story, based on events occurring in 1915 at Bastøy Island in the Fjord of Oslo; a detention centre for ‘maladjusted boys’, as the subtitles tell us.
Maladjusted is somewhat ironic in the context of this story. The boys in the film are remarkably well-adjusted, and have as keen a sense of right and wrong as their ‘protectors’. Each of the film’s protagonists fail at some point to act according to their convictions, as do their protectors, who subtly develop into the story’s antagonists.
What I like most about this film is that although it casts certain historical figures clearly in the role of antagonists, all of them are fully developed, and all but one are depicted with a degree of empathy. Just like the protagonists, they’re pawns in a bloody game of chess being played by rulers as remote and inviolate as kings. Violence, in this context, is the inevitable response.
I can hardly put into words how much I like this film. Beautifully shot in the fjords, with precise timing matching the mood of the film to the development of the winter and remarkable performances from a very talented cast. This film is perfect.
You may have missed your chance to see this as part of the 2011 Canberra International Film Festival; for a taste, the trailer is here.