King of Devil's Island is a 2010 Norwegian film directed by the innovative writer and director Marius Holst. It is inspired by the Bastøy Prison Rebellion in 1915 in Norway; Bastøy Prison being a Norwegian equivalent of Alcatraz. However, the island prison was not a notorious prison yet in 1915, it was a privately-run ultra-strict reform school for young boys and juvenile offenders.
During one of the coldest winters in recorded history the man dismissed for sexual abuses comes back to work with the blessings of the head of the island played by the multi-lingually talented Stellan Skarsgård. The youths imprisoned at Bastøy have had enough. They stage a violent rebellion against their teachers and a reign of anarchy and destruction ensues. The film is breathtaking in its depiction of the sweeping anger and righteous indignation that carried these youthful rebels. In the chaos the character’s — Erling and Olav — have their compassion tested, their limits exasperated, their camaraderie redefined, and their pain shared. The film is beautifully shot across natural scenery as cold and bitter as the story. The friendships formed outlast life when the Norwegian armed forces including the navy are called in to quell the rebellion. Restraint and violence meet in an escalation of drama as the film manifests its burning fire, the fires of youth.
The film is utterly raw and simple. You’ll be moved and drawn by the characters and simultaneously shocked and horrified by the abuse. The overall tone of the film is not so much hopeful as magnanimous. An understated soundtrack and organic cinematography accentuate the story and the acting of both young and old actors alike is superb. King of Devil’s Island is a masterful narrative of pain, prison, and the people we become. It is a movie packed with emotive scenes and honest perspectives. If any film is deserving of the Best Foreign Film Awardsie it is King of Devil’s Island.