Starring: Baltasar Kormákur, Sveinn Geirsson, Gísli Halldórsson
Director: Friðrik Þór Friðriksson
Running Time: 99 mins
Devil’s Island (Djöflaeyjan) is an Icelandic film about the lives of the families residing in the barracks left behind by American soldiers after World War Two.
This is a properly dark and depressing black comedy. Definitely not intended to make you burst out laughing, but rather watch on at some pretty bleak family drama, Devil’s Island is a clever, although not always hard-hitting watch.
Let’s start off on the slightly brighter side, with the fact that, as bleak as this film can be, it’s an engaging watch from start to finish. Centring around the events that unfold when a once reserved young man returns home from America during the 50s, you get a good impression of a different perspective of the rock and roll generation.
Rather than taking a similar tack to the likes of Rebel Without A Cause, Devil’s Island simply shows that that sort of arrogant, unruly and “cool” behaviour just won’t wash, especially in a small community in Iceland.
That’s another interesting line the film takes, the insight you get into this small community of previously homeless people now residing in the former US Army barracks. Apart from being a true fact that I knew absolutely nothing about, the magnitude of one person either returning or leaving is clearly enormous, something that forms the core of this film’s story.
So, the fact is that this film is pretty bleak. It shows a once reserved man turn into a completely different and loathsome person as he wreaks havoc on his family and the local community. What’s more is the fact that the story is fill of hugely unforgiving and even more depressing individual moments, all of which just seem so unfair.
So what makes this film a comedy? Well, as hard as it may be to believe, the story’s often insanely bleak nature brings you to a point where you have to laugh. It’s a seriously black comedy, but with some good writing and performances, it makes for an engaging watch throughout.
The only issue that I would have with this film is the fact that it’s not particularly hard-hitting. It may be depressing and bleak, but there was never a time where the potential emotional effect of the story worked well, and as a result, I felt the film was lacking in proper resonance, which was a shame to see.
Overall, I liked Devil’s Island, and as bleak as it is at times, it can be a very engaging watch, albeit not quite so emotionally impressive, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.