Kongen av Bastøy (2010)
Powerful, classically constructed film about arguably Norway's most infamous juvenile correctional facility in the early 20th century, Bastøy - an island to which boys aged 8 to 18 was sent indefinitely. These were kids who, according to the authorities, suffered from adjustment or behavioural problems, or who were simply neglected, and at Bastøy they encountered hard manual labour, strict discipline and corporal punishment, among other less systematized hardships.
Filmmaker Marius Holst hasn't got much positive to say about the institution he portrays, but he still manages to tell a fairly balanced story in which good and bad isn't dichotomized into the counterproductive. The solid, at times brilliant acting is one of the keys in this respect, and particularly Swedish import Stellan Skarsgård and the young talent Trond Nilssen go deep into their respective characters' layered psyche. Comradery, courage and youthful dreaming is poignantly portrayed as the tortured kids try to find a way out of their secluded prison and back into the real world. The film and environment looks and feels adequately old-fashioned, something which brings us closer to the events and characters. On a thematic level, Kongen av Bastøy is a timeless picture, and although it tells the story of a specific Norwegian facility, most western nations' history is probably stained by institutions such as this one. Don't be too surprised if this one turns up as a Foreign Language nominee at the Academy Awards.