Getting Even With Authority at Swedish Boarding School


Possibly the work of Lasse Hallstr evil twin, this ’03–’04 Swedish Oscar nominee tells the story of how affable, muscular swim champion Erik (Andreas Wilson) stands up to authority at a draconian boarding school, where order is preserved by sadistic upperclassmen, and the faculty—some of whom hold their own Nietzschean ideas—turn a blind eye to abuse. At Stj in the 1950s, if you’re one of the plebs, routine punishment involves being beaten on the head with a butter knife; flirting with the waitstaff is grounds for expulsion. A drama of hazing, the movie builds through scenes in which the order keepers demand that Erik defer to their senseless codes of conduct, prompting Erik to refuse, prompting larger penalties, prompting bigger payback. Before you know it, they’re dumping feces in each other’s rooms. The milieu owes something to Lindsay Anderson’s If . . . . , but Evil is less anti-authority than pro-confrontation. Gandhi is invoked, then forgotten—everything leads up to the moment when Erik, Babe Ruth–like, telegraphs which bones he’ll break while fighting these assholes on the blacktop. Is this an allegory against blind deference to fascism? It might be, but the root-for-the-Aryan-jock dramatics seem mildly fascist themselves.