Screened as part of NZIFF 2004

Evil 2003


Directed by Mikael Håfström

Sweden In Swedish with English subtitles
107 minutes 35mm


Hans Gunnarsson, Mikael Håfström. Based on the novel by Jan Guillou


Peter Mokrosinski


Darek Hoder


Francis Shaw


Andreas Wilson
Henrik Lundström
Gustaf Skarsgård
Linda Zilliacus


Toronto, Vancouver 2003


It’s school that’s evil in this riveting tale of a smart but volatile boy attempting to control his rage in an environment where violence is an underlying principle: a boys’ boarding school in the 50s. Jan Guillou’s memoir of surviving appalling bullying is a longstanding bestseller in Sweden, and it’s easy to see why. The hero’s dilemma as an able-bodied young man denied the power he possesses to defend himself is extremely compelling. Identifying with him implicates us in his bottled-up revenge fantasies, an effect clinched here by the charismatic performance of actor Andreas Wilson as Erik. Erik has been beaten by his stepfather and his subsequent propensity for beating up other kids has had him expelled despite excellent grades. His mother sells her valuables to get him into a prestigious boarding school for a year, and he resolves to get a grip on his vicious temper and make the best of this last chance. Such resolve is tested to the limits at this bizarre school where the teachers exist in ivory-towered oblivion and discipline is the domain of the senior students. Having themselves been bullied as juniors, they are of course total power freaks. The two most powerful are physical cowards; their base is the school council, a self-important child’s idea of a feudal court, and Erik’s refusal to submit to their sadistic regime drives them insane. Evil is about the enormous difficulty of being good, of not stooping to the level of one’s persecutors, and it takes us amazingly close to the heart of a Swedish hero and role model. — BG