Evil (Sweden/Denmark, director Mikael Håfström): Based on the Swedish bestseller Ondskan by Jan Guillou, Evil is the story of sixteen-year old Erik, who is expelled from his high school for his constant fighting. What his teachers don’t know is that at home, Erik is being beaten mercilessly by his stepfather, and is lashing out the only way he knows how. He is sent to a prestigious boarding school, where he is determined to make good on his considerable academic potential. But the school is ruled by the cruel whims of the senior students, whose many crimes, both petty and otherwise, are ignored by the faculty. Erik faces a choice. He can fight back, and be expelled, or he can take the humiliation. Or is there another way?
This beautifully-shot film reminded me of Lord of the Flies, for obvious reasons, but has also been compared to Rebel Without A Cause (which, being set in the 1950s, it references directly). It didn’t hurt that Andreas Wilson, the actor who plays Erik, bears some resemblance to James Dean. It’s a very well-crafted film, even if it doesn’t have any revolutionary things to say. The universal themes of friendship, first love, growing up, and resisting injustice are all here and handled with skill. There is quite a bit of violence and humiliation in the film, and even though we are stirred up to see Erik take his vengeance, the director gently pulls away from showing us this half of the equation. I thought that was a very interesting decision, and it elevated this film above being just a more violent Revenge Of The Nerds.