Norway, 1915. On the remote island of Bastoy, a group of mostly harmless boys are kept in a brutally run reform school for ‘maladjusted’ juveniles, enduring hard labour and regimented punishment for their meagre crimes. Into the motley bunch comes Erling, a teenager rumoured to have committed murder, and stern governor Bestyreren (Stellan Skarsgard) thinks he has the potential to become the new ‘head boy’. But Erling has no intention of remaining on Bastoy.
Shot against a bleak winter palette of icy blues and greys, The King of Devil’s Island certainly looks the part, offering sweeping panoramas and stunning snowy landscapes so cold you can almost feel them. The story is a little predictable, as these reform school dramas are wont to be (Stern governor? Check. Defiant inmate? Check), yet it remains extremely compelling, and audiences will be rooting for Erling till the bitter(ly freezing) end. (KSo) ***1/2