Film Review: King of Devil's Island
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4/5King of Devil’s Island (or Kongen av Bastoy) is a Norwegian language film, directed by Marius Holst and starring Stellan Skarsgard, set in 1915 on a remote island detention centre for wayward boys somewhere off the Norwegian mainland. The film, based on real events, tells the story of Erling, Olav and Ivar, who through the regime of Bastoy have been stripped of their real identities - and so respectively become C19, C1 and C5. The depersonalisation is a typical trope of the dystopian genre, and King of Devil’s Island packs a strong punch. In the manner of Orwell, those in charge (including Skarsgard as Bastoy’s director Hakon and Kristoffer Joner as the hated Housefather Braaten) impose a regime of intimidation and violence on their charges – all, of course, in alleged pursuit of the greater Christian good. Those in charge see everything, the inmates are told as they arrive. They hear everything. And of course, everything is written down in the book. Time, as in 1984, is immaterial: the inmates have no past, we are told close to the beginning, and no future. Nothing matters but the present. The boys’ lives, suspended on the island of Bastoy, are unable to move forward – essentially they appear as trapped in their own bleak fates as they are by the half-frozen fjords that surround them.
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