Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Andreas Wilson, Henrik Lundström, Gustaf Skarsgård, Linda Zilliacus, Jesper Salén
Director: Mikael Håfström
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror
As a refuge from his step fathers abuse and a last hope for his academic future eriks mother sends him to a private boarding school stjarnsberg. Only stjarnsberg isnt the refuge eriks mother believes it to be. Inside these... more »
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Compelling tale of brutality and transformation
RaabH | USA | 07/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1857 Thomas Hughes published "Tom Brown's Schooldays", which despite the unassuming title (or the sunny illustration on the current edition's front cover) is actually a bitter indictment of the brutality that Hughes saw as rampant in the 19th century British public school system. Jan Guillou's 1981 autobiographical novel, "Ondskan" -- of which "Evil" is the film version -- takes on mid-1900s Swedish boarding schools in a similar way. As with their British counterparts, at the Swedish schools it was the boys themselves who enforced the rules. The upper-classmen would act as harsh disciplinarians for the students in the lower forms, while teachers and administrators saw their duty to be only what their job descriptions entailed: teaching and administering.
As a film version of Guillou's book, "Evil" is very accomplished indeed. The main character, Erik, is a bully who after regular beatings at home at the hand of his stepfather has come to take the same violent approach with his classmates. Due to constant fighting he is expelled from one high school after another, until finally it is left to his mother to sell off some of the family's prized possessions to pay for his tuition at an elite boarding school. This is the only school that will now accept him, and at a steep price. Knowing that the year at this school will be his last chance to graduate and move on to college, Erik is determined to get through it without another expulsion. At the same time he is also determined not to become victim to the traditional brutality that he soon discovers permeates the school. It is the tension between these two objectives that drives the story of "Evil".
The upper-classmen at his new boarding school quickly realize what they've got in Erik, and in response they continually raise the stakes in their obsession over making him submit. What results are scenes combining cruelty, brutality, and downright disgust (one episode involving a late-night visit by the upper-classmen to Erik's room is definitely not for the squeamish.) We also at times feel keen frustration at having to watch Erik put up with the various mistreatments, especially knowing that if he did fight back he could easily subdue any of these upper-classmen.
Lead actor Andreas Wilson's characterization of Erik is masterful, evoking the anger that drives him while also showing that as an individual he is far too complex to be dismissed as simply "evil". After the years of mistreatment by his stepfather (explaining not only the genesis of Erik's violent nature but his almost super-human ability to withstand pain), he has developed an unblinkingly tough facade, but as he begins to experience deep friendship and even romantic feelings for the first time, he gets in touch with his caring side as well. Erik is a boy of few words, giving Wilson relatively few lines of dialog and requiring him to evoke a great deal solely through facial expression and bodily aspect. Nonetheless, through Wilson we come to believe in Erik's gradual transformation -- his ultimate transcendance of his brutal homelife and the mistreatment at school. It is also worth noting that other characters are multi-dimensional as well. Not all of the teachers are blind and unfeeling to what is going on with the students, and Erik's worst tormenters show they are vulnerable in surprising ways. Even Erik's timid best friend/roommate proves to have an unexpectedly courageous side. A lesser film would not have strived for such nuance.
The resolution of the story is very satisfying, in part because when Erik finally does fight again (both at school and at home) it is out of considered necessity and not violent impulse. And, when he comes to achieve his ultimate victory at the very end, it is through perseverance, insight, and cleverness rather than violence at all.
The special features on the DVD include a featurette on the making of the movie, where we get to meet Guillou himself and learn more about how he came to write the original novel. We also hear from each of the featured actors and actresses and take in some behind-the-scenes production footage.
I should note that the blurb on the DVD cover ("It's Fight Club in a boarding school") is way off the mark. Did that critic see the same movie? Hopefully my synopsis gives a better sense of what the film is about."
A Very Decent Film
J. E. Colon | Columbia, SC | 08/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I would recommend Ondskan to anyone who is interested in coming-of-age films. American cinema has always been expert at such portrayals, and it is good to see so accomplished an example out of Sweden. I liked especially the fact that the director never wavers as he unmasks the unwholesome face of an angst-ridden, violence-prone, socially intransigent Swedish society of the not so long ago . Set in the fifties, mostly at a posh boarding school for the upper-class, where the sixth-form boys, led by an effete Swedish aristocrat, set about enforcing their arbitrary and violent rules while the faculty turn a blind eye, this film cleverly avoids the hooks, punches and triumphs of the underdog come to grips with the jack-booted status quo via his fists alone by allowing him to prevail to justice through the intervention of Swedish law. There are enough fisticuffs along the way, however, to satisfy the blood-thirsty among you. Well-acted, good script, beautiful cinematographic moments."
David Freydkin | Atlanta, GA | 11/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Erik Pontil is a bully at his high school. After severely beating up another student, he is expelled and sent to a private school, which is his last chance to get into a university. At home, he suffers from regular beatings by his step-father. When at the new school, he tries to lead a peaceful life but is, instead, tormented by the older students, who give him no chance but to fight back.
What I really like about this movie is that it shows how bullying really is a fault of society. In real life, people say they disagree with bullying but really support the bully when the action occurs. In the movie, whenever underclassmen get victimized by the seniors, the public supports the bullies, and chears them on in the box.
I think the real message of the movie is that the real law of our world is the survival of the fittest. Some are less fortunate and cannot defend themselves against bullies but others, like Erik, can fight for themselves. At the end, no one will fight for you. The only way to defeat bullying is to become stronger and fight off the bully. If you don't fight, you will be considered the villain as society will view you as weak and cowardly and look up to the bully.
Human nature is weak and inherently evil. The strongest law is the law of the fittest survive."
We are friends, now, aren't we Erik?
Marian M. Matsunaga | sequim,WA | 03/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Evil" is a very unique film, in that it is not just foreign, but because of that, it's subject matter is treated in a VERY different way than we are used to seeing, here in the U.S. It is first and foremost, a story of a troubled teen, who has very serious anger issues. Apart from that, however, is an underlying viciousness that young adults seem to harbor in a scholastic setting.
We see Erik, a handsome boy, who seems to vent his pent-up rage upon other teenagers at his local school. After a conference with other school heads, Erik is expelled. It appears that Erik has no other recourse, but to "drop-out". This means a bleak existence for Erik, as in all other countries, a dropout has limited choices as to employment. It is here, that we are witness to Erik's homelife.
His Mother is understandably concerned for Erik's future. She sells some of her prized possessions to raise the money to send Erik to a private school, so Erik still has a chance. Erik's Stepfather is not so accomodating. He seems to have a penchant for punishing Erik for even the most insignificant of "transgressions". It is here, as well, that we understand why Erik is the way he is. It seems that Erik is punished by belt just about every evening.
Then comes the day Erik leaves for his new school. All appears well at first, as he is shown around the campus grounds by an upperclassman. He reluctantly settles into his dorm room and gets to know his "bunkie". Now comes the part that let's Erik know that he has been thrown into a wasp's nest. There are R-U-L-E-S he must follow, to get along (not much has changed, as it is remeniscent of his home life).
Scholastically, Erik is a model student! He is bright, adept physically as well as mentally, and excells. The rules however, become a bane to Erik's existence. He must now do demeaning things that have no apparent purpose (much like "hazing"), other than to push Erik into either confrontation, or compliance. Erik has a complete understanding of the difference between punishment and cruelty, and won't stand for any of it.
It's not much of a stretch to say that Erik has now become the school whipping boy.
One day Erik gets to know one of the school's serving girls (which is forbidden), and falls in love. It is difficult to maintain a relationship, because of their differing schedules, but Erik tries his best, as it is the only positive thing he can look forward to.
Then the hammer falls. It is now open season on Erik! To his credit, Erik takes things in stride, as difficult as it is, because he knows that this school is his last chance, and he will not waste his Mother's money by being a failure. All bets are off, however, when an upperclassman finds out about Erik's Liaison with the serving girl, and reports it to the School Head.
What happens next is surprisingly rewarding. I cannot go further, so as not to ruin it for those of you who haven't seen it yet. "Evil" won many Film Festival awards, and it is easy to see why. Because it is in Swedish with English subtitles, there are many who will not watch it, simply because they do not like reading subtitles! It is their loss, as "Evil" is a very entertaining film!
There are deleted scenes, as well as a "making of" featurette that is very interesting, because it lends insight into the Swedish mindset that created the story for filming.
Easily a five-star film!!"