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aka - Ondskan
Sweden 2003
Directed by
Mikael Håfström
113 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Sweden’s entry for the Best Foreign Film at the 2004 Oscars is an odd affair that seems to be meant as much allegorically as much as it realistically.  Set in 1950s Sweden it is the story of Erik (Andreas Wilson) who has a tyrannical stepfather who rules over him and his mother with physical violence. Erik in turn gets into fights at school and this gets him expelled. His mother manages to get him into an upmarket boarding school but though he tries to turn things around for her sake he finds himself amidst an entrenched system of bullying that is tacitly endorsed by the school’s administration, presumably as a way of inculcating conformity.

Not being Swedish I don’t know if this was how private schools were run there in the 1950s but the level of violence is quite extraordinary, or perhaps Håfström is hyperbolically compressing a pervasive phenomenon into a short time span.  Whatever the truth of the matter his film works as a passionate plea against authoritarianism (the school faculty even harbours a Nazi!!). Whilst Håfström is a little too facile in the way he moves through what might be described as Dead Poets Society meets Fight Club assuming that allegory is the main thrust here it is not a major issue and one can’t but help root for good over evil.

Available from: Madman




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