A friend passed along a movie suggestion, and I was skeptical. The title, "King of Devil's Island," sounded like some high-school version of zombies or biker gangs or teenaged hi-jinks. What a C-minus title in my mind.
But the 2010 movie was beautifully photographed and there was human mystery and sentiment in it ... there was meat on the bone. "King of Devil's Island," tells the tale (in Norwegian with subtitles) of a group of boys, 11-18, incarcerated at the Bastøy reformatory on an island at the beginning of the 20th century. One boy has been on the island for six years for stealing money from a church-donation box, but the movie is not some hand-wringing tale of knee-jerk injustice. It is a tale of low-key and compelling humanity among human beings. The movie (which builds to a rebellion that was real) is based on an institution that was real but has since been shut down.
How nice to see a movie that declines to skip over the intricacies of the human heart and simultaneously declines to whine or whimper or send a 'message' about those intricacies. The movie is not perfect, but I was delighted to see it, delighted not to recognize a single face, and delighted not to be insulted by a style passing for substance.