“Oh my god, I’m sure that’s Danny Saucedo”, I thought to myself as I watched the SBS-2 screening of the Swedish film “Ondskan” (“Evil”). A bit of Googling and the IMDB indeed confirmed he was an uncredited “bully” in the film. The scene in which he appears, which is about a third of the way into the film, portrays ritualistic bullying in a Swedish private school in the 1950s.
At the heart of the film is the character of Erik Ponti, who lives with violence both at school and at home, where he is also beaten by his step-father.Arriving at the private school at the age of fourteen or fifteen, he refuses to abide by the hierarchical way in which the school is run. Even though you realise many of the school staff are opposed to the system, the older students, by virtue of rich parents, are able to control the younger students through the detention system, and through systematic and ritualistic bullying.
Erik’s academically-inclined room-mate, Pierre is also the subject of bullying. But unlike Pierre and many young boys who are bullied at school, Erik is good at sports, and more than physically able to defend himself. Erik fights back, both physically and mentally, against the older students. He is a very powerful character. In the end, Pierre decides it’s almost too much to continue with, and Erik also comes undone when he develops a forbidden relationship with one of the school cooks. His mental focus, however, allows him to continue.
It’s a film I enjoyed very much, and in doing a bit of additional research, I discovered it’s based on a very well known Swedish novel, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 2003. Oh, and of course, it features Danny who went on to become a Swedish pop star, and likely Eurovision Song Contest entrant for Sweden this year. And, who I got to meet a few months ago at Stockholm Pride, when I went up to him and asked if he would be happy to have a photograph with my friend, The Best Judge.
The only unfortunate thing about the film was that I had to watch it in two parts. I’d set the film to record last night, as I was at a party, and because it had begun late the last 20 minutes, yes 20 minutes, of the film was chopped. Thank goodness there’s plenty of copies of the film on file-sharing sites both in the original Swedish, and with English language sub-titles.