San Francisco, CA 94115
Region: Japantown/Pacific Heights
A brooding, evocative Norwegian juvie-hell drama set in 1915, Marius Holst's movie King of Devil's Island lands us in a fresh locale: secluded, wintery Bastoy Island, home to the near-medieval "school" for "maladjusted boys," just as a new, unbreakable young felon (Benjamin Helstad) is admitted, much to the concern of the principal (Stellan Skarsgard). Indelible in its muster of pungent period flavor, the film follows the resonant Cool Hand Luke/Cuckoo's Nest formula pretty closely until the prison uprising (which this microgenre often avoids) blows up stirringly. Reportedly based on a true story, Holst's seemingly robustly budgeted and luridly titled opus (we're nowhere near the real Devil's Island in French Guiana) takes its time expanding the inmates' characters, but in the end, they're as convincing as the preindustrial slave labor and the climactic trial on the frozen Skagerrak Strait.
Jan. 6-12, 2012