Release Date: March 10th, 2006 (Cinema Village) by Magnolia Pictures.
The Cast: Andreas Wilson, Henrik Lundström, Gustaf Skarsgård, Linda Zilliacus, Jesper Salén, Filip Berg, Fredrik af Trampe, Richard Danielsson, Martin Svane.
Directed by Mikael Håfström.
In Swedish and Finnish with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: In the 1950’s, 16 year-old Erik (Wilson) rebels against his abusive authorities in a boarding school.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: After getting into trouble for fighting in high school, Erik soon ends up in Stjarnsberg Boarding School where his mother hopes he will get some well-needed discipline. This boarding school also serves as a second chance for Erik to prove his maturity to his parents. He sure does get a lot of discipline there, but much more than he expected. Otto (Skarsgård), an older student, intimidates him daily to the point of being an actually bully. Erik witnesses other students being abused in unimaginable ways and soon he becomes targeted too—i.e., being starved, working long hours digging ditches, and getting beating in fist fights. Thanks to strong performances from each actor, it’s easy to root for Erik while hating most of the authorities, especially Otto—they represent “evil” as does his abusive stepfather back at home. The only three good characters that are at Erik’s side in one way or another include his roommate Pierre (Lundström), his swim coach, and Marja (Zilliacus), a beautiful cafeteria worker. Erik and Marja’s secret romance adds some suspense given that they are both strictly forbidden to be seen together. Obviously, the last thing that Erik wants is to get expelled. At first, he submits to the sadistic nature of this institution, but midway through the second act, he suddenly retaliates. For example, when he finds his room splattered with excrement, he gathers it up in a bucket, sneaks into the older students’ dormitory and pours it right on an older student’s face while as he sleeps. This scene goes a little too far, though. Nonetheless, it’s riveting to follow Erik throughout the powerful third act as he gradually finds ways to defend himself.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: It’s very discomforting to watch the young students get abused so severely by upperclassmen who should typically serve as a role model. Quite the contrary, Stjarnsberg Boarding School instantly comes across as a fascist institution where evil hides behind authority figures. Fortunately, Erik finds the courage to stand up against such cruel injustice. The ending feels satisfying because he truly changes from the inside by learning that overcoming life’s obstacles takes more than just physical strength, but strength of mind as well. The overall message is that good eventually prevails over Evil. Anyone evil gets what they deserve in one way or another.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Powerful and gripping from start to finish!
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "E" Menu