Film Review: King of Devil’s Island

Based on true events, King of Devil’s Island has a slow start. Nevertheless, the film picks up, and the final third is great.

On the island of Bastoy, a home for delinquent boys is run by a strict principal and his staff. The regime is cruel and rigid, with the young boys being forced to work long hours in the cold Norwegian winter. When teenager Erling arrives, he quickly rebels against the rules and dicipline enforced by the staff…

King of Devil’s Island is based on real events. The tale is sad, but an entirely believable one. There is nothing that takes place during the course of the film that appears implausible. Nonetheless, certain scenes are difficult to watch, as they illustrate some awful treatment.

The pacing of Marius Holst’s film is a little off. King of Devil’s Island suffers from a slow start, where it might easily lose viewers. Thankfully, the film recovers from this. The final third is wholly engaging, and makes up for the initial half hour or so. The build to the climax works well to maintain the viewer’s attention. King of Devil’s Island is a slow burner, but one that becomes engrossing.

Holst’s film does well to maintain a bleak atmosphere throughout. There is a sense of coldness and of brutality that engenders the entire film. The cinematography and setting are responsible for a great deal of this tone. The expanse of the landscape is depicted through long shots; viewers are frequently reminded of how isolated the boys are. Moreover, the danger of escape is emphasised by the unforgiving location.

King of Devil’s Island offers good performances from its cast. Benjamin Helstad and Trond Nilssen deliver solid performances respectively as Erling and Olav. Stellan Skarsgård meanwhile is well cast as the principal.

Owing to its bleakness, King of Devil’s Island will not suit every mood. However, the final third makes it well worth viewing.