King Of Devil's Island - DVD Review

'When our protagonist comes up with a plausible escape scheme and executes it around thirty minutes in, is it even remotely possible that that will be the last we see of him?'

The press material for King Of Devil's Island tantalisingly invokes The Lord Of The Flies and, for a brief moment or two towards the end, Marius Holst's film looks like it might go down the route of suggesting what would happen if the trodden upon youngsters of Bastøy Island became the rulers, the Kings, of their own domain. It's an interesting idea and one that's not been followed all that often recently.

Rather disappointingly, but perfectly predictably, this element of the plotting proves to not be the norm of a film that pretty much follows the generic check list of things to include in a prison drama. There's a horrible recurring metaphor (this time about a whale who carries on swimming despite being injured), the fragile allegiances which form out of initial distrust and violence and the predictable nature of several plot elements. When our protagonist comes up with a plausible escape scheme and executes it around thirty minutes in, is it even remotely possible that that will be the last we see of him?

Generic plotting then is an accepted shame of the genre, and even more of a shame here, given how much King Of Devil's Island does to try to stand out from the rest of the crowd. The cinematography is lensed by John Andreas Andersen completely in blue, echoing the isolation and coldness of the surroundings (barely a scene goes by, interior or exterior, where a character's breath is not visible). It's high dedication to form and topic and it looks stunning. The addition too of genuine screen presence Stellan Skarsgård is welcome and he does well as the conflicted governor, although Kristoffer Joner, in a slightly lesser role, is less convincing.

Holst ducks and weaves through Dennis Magnusson and Eric Schmid's screenplay, trying to find new dramas to focus on but too often the film lacks resonance at moments when it really needed to pause and take stock. The central issue too - the sexual abuse of some of the boys by one of the teachers, in which it recalls, to an extent, Sleepers - is completely skirted around for long periods, an approach which threatens to undermine the film's credibility. Coupled with the predictable plot, the effect threatens to cripple the film, although likeable young leads Benjamin Helstad and Trond Nilssen keep you invested.

Less predictably, the end, whether accidentally or on purpose, is worthy of mention for its apparent eagerness to reference Titantic. Which is a bit odd.




King Of Devils Island is out on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 29th October 2012.

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