Is­land bleak be­yond be­lief

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Eguide Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH Now show­ing State Cinema

SOME­ONE on the ra­dio the other day de­scribed King of Devil’s Is­land as ‘‘ a Scan­di­na­vian Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion’’.

It’s a catchy enough tag, but grossly in­ac­cu­rate. The movie is set in a prison- like fa­cil­ity in ye olden days, but that’s about where the sim­i­lar­i­ties end.

This grim Nor­we­gian drama is not in the busi­ness of ad­min­is­ter­ing an up­lift­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to the viewer in any form.

The film de­picts a chain of events that took place in 1915 at the Bas­toy Re­form School, a hold­ing pen for ‘‘ mal­ad­justed boys’’ on a re­mote and freez­ing cold is­land.

The Bas­toy cur­ricu­lum is hard labour in day­light hours and has­sles from the guards through­out the night.

The is­land’s stub­born Gov­er­nor Bestyr­eren ( played to aus­tere per­fec­tion by Stel­lan Skars­gard) be­lieves his rigid sys­tem of dis­ci­pline helps more than it hurts.

With the right stu­dents, he can cre­ate what he calls ‘‘ hon­ourable, no­ble, use­ful, Chris­tian boys’’.

Bestyr­eren is not com­pletely across the in­cli­na­tions of cer­tain mem­bers of his staff, how­ever, which stretch be­yond the bru­tally harsh to the dis­turbingly abu­sive.

As King of Devil’s Is­land grinds on, you be­gin to re­spect the film’s bloody- minded re­solve to do jus­tice to this bleak tale.

Par­ties on both sides of the dis­ci­plinary di­vide ap­pear to be on the verge of crack­ing up. Some­thing’s got to give. And, more than likely, a re­volt just has to hap­pen.

Don’t go to King of Devil’s Is­land ex­pect­ing cathar­sis to oc­cur. What takes hold is more like a state of con­trolled cata­to­nia, as the boys of Bas­toy con­cen­trate with all their might on pro­tect­ing their will to sur­vive.

You want up­lift­ing? Go catch an escalator.

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