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King of Devil’s Island

King of Devil’s Island

A film by Marius Holst

Movie review

This harrowing Norwegian drama is based on true events that took place at the Bastøy Island penal colony circa 1915. The imposing Stellan Skarsgård plays the cruel governor of this institution, where teenage boys submit to abusive treatment until the arrival of a new inmate. As played by Benjamin Helstad, the new kid is a rebellious, charismatic figure à la Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke or Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest, one who simply refuses to let his spirit be crushed. Behind the camera, director Marius Holst displays an impressive mastery of pace, atmosphere and tension, delivering a harsh and gloomy film with a dash of hope coming through via the Melvillesque whaling fantasies of Helstad’s character and the use of Sigur Rós’ Vaka as a leitmotif.

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King of Devil's Island

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