Sunday, 24 June 2012

King Of Devil's Island Press Junket - Stellan Skarsgård Interview

Premiere Scene’s Claire Bueno had the absolute pleasure of interviewing the King of Swedish acting royalty Stellan Skarsgård  (Avengers, Thor, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) when he was in London attending the press junket for the heart wrenching Norwegian film King Of Devil's Island (Kongen av Bastøy). Skarsgård speaks of his admiration for the young cast who themselves were from troubled backgrounds who made him as an actor up his game and how shooting in bleakest Estonia not only helped accentuate the bleakness of the story but it was a lot of fun too! 

Words Nicola Johnston
Bastoy was a notorious reform school for boys from 1900 to 1953 set on a remote Island not far from Oslo in Norway. The film is based on unsettling and brutal true events that took place in May 1915 when 29 boys fought back with every bit of strength and courage they could muster. Director Marius Holst spent many years researching the time, events and conducting interviews he himself had not heard of the revolt until he started to research the subject.

The governor of the school is Mr Bestyreren, played by the remarkable Stellan Skarsgard a man who is driven by strict Christian principles. He makes sure it is understood that if the boy’s don’t learn the rules they will never get to leave the Island. He sees it as his was his duty to shake the boys back on to the right path, at that time physical punishment was part of growing up. His character is rich and at times very touching, we see glimpses of his own past in his eyes as he struggles with what is right and wrong but he believes in his rigid system of discipline to be the right one. He was a man of his time.

The young cast must be congratulated on their performances, which are rich and touching, at times full of humour but most of all they are convincing and honest. Benjamin Helstad reminded me of a young Ray Winstone in Scum, his performance is solid and his sensitivity extremely beautiful to watch. Trond Nilssen is spellbinding and the two actors work very well together as there relationship develops into that of brothers. I also must mention Magnus Langlete who suffers from debilitating sexual abuse from his Housemaster played by Kristoffer Joner, his character goes on such a journey in which the outcome must be the catalyst that sparks the boys fight back and take control. Holst set about to find boys that had faces that resembled that time, underprivileged and neglected, most of the young cast were not trained actors.

The Cinematography is pin-Sharp with a dark blue-grey palette and in moments like looking at a painting. Holst shot the film in Estonia rather than in Norway as the school is now a prison for adults and he wanted to find buildings of the right period. The subject matter is thought-provoking perhaps even more so after the resent events which took place in Norway, one cannot help but think of the utter chaos and terror that went one when watching the scene’s in which the young boys run for their lives trapped on an Island being hunted down by men with huge guns. It also highlights that brutal acts are never going to disappear and that ugly nasty things are always at large but the important thing in this story is that of courage, determination, friendship and the fight for survival and freedom perhaps most important is just how wonderful and powerful the art of imagination really is.

The music is haunting and ghostly the costumes and sets are perfect, it must have been a difficult and tough shot for all involved the conditions must have been extremely cold and unforgiving but I think this can only have helped. Seeing the real footage of boys at the end of the film at work in the fields, reaping grain and marching in strict lines we even see a boy with a large bandage on his head with blood visible and also a black eye you get a feeling that life on this Island might have been a lot worse.

The film has already won Best Film and Best Supporting Actor (Trond Nilssen) at The Norwegian International Film Festival and Best Feature Film at Lubeck Nordic Film Days and I am sure it will go on to win more. Huge congratulations to all involved.

KING OF DEVIL'S ISLAND is in cinemas from 29th June 2012

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