King of Devil’s Island (‘Kongen av Bastøy’)

DRAMA; 1hr 56min (Norwegian and Swedish with subtitles)

STARRING: Stellan Skarsgård, Benjamin Helstad

Hell frozen: from left, Skarsgård and Helstad

Even in an institution for the hardened and the marginalised, inscrutable 17-year-old newcomer Erling (Helstad, ominous and compelling) is a standout. A sailor with a rumoured dark past and no fear, he’s earmarked for trouble from day one. Erling’s driving ambition is to escape the icy, storm-tossed Oslo fjord island where the hellhole reform school of Bastøy operates under the implacable stewardship of a governor (Skarsgård) big on Christian rhetoric and even bigger on barbaric retaliation in the name of righteous character building. The only way out is a rowboat in a locked shed: a shred of hope at best but the alternative is unthinkable. 


Appalling and dispiriting? Every chilling minute — and moreover, the story is based on actual, unprecedented events that took place in 1915. Their horrific outcome, gravely and suspensefully re-created by director Marius Holst, bears frightening witness to the perils of unchecked isolation and the last-ditch conviction it must take to rise up.