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Evil

Director: Mikael Hafstrom

Sweden| 2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo digital. 114 min.


Nominated for the 2004 Foreign Film Oscar, this gripping school drama takes several unexpected turns to tell its story about a fiercely strong-minded teen who refuses to let the system crush his spirit. Erik (Andreas Wilson) is 16 when he’s thrown out of his school for fighting, branded by his headmaster as ‘pure evil’. His brutal stepfather and loving-but-in-denial mother send him off to a posh boarding college as a last resort. But even though he’s determined to stay out of trouble, the harsh realities of life catch up with him, mostly due to two vicious senior boys.
Echoes of Rebel Without a Cause run throughout this 1950s-set story, from the quiet revolution within the main characters to literal references to James Dean’s iconic role. Director/co-writer Mikael Hafstrom draws out the period’s repressed nastiness; everything looks orderly and nice on the surface, yet seethes with a violence that erupts throughout society. The school’s social structure, of course, is the film’s main target—unjust, brutal, unavoidable.
The performances crackle with authenticity, and Wilson is superb as a young man trying desperately to break the cycle of violence, even though he knows his skill at fighting might be the very thing that saves him. While the characters aren’t terribly complex (everyone is clearly good or evil), they’re at least fascinatingly drawn.
At its core this is a fairly basic school drama about finding the inner resolve to be yourself, winning respect and standing up for what’s right. It’s also a heartbreakingly insightful look at the human spirit and the source of real honour. Although Erik adopts a Gandhi-like policy of non-violence, we know he must have a breaking point.

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