Nordophile came across Bastøy the Movie whilst reviewing ‘King of Devil’s island’. ‘ King of Devil’s island’ is an emotionally driven story of a boys home on the island of Bastøy, Norway. Set in the early 20th century the film follows the boys who have been sent to the island via the courts for various crimes. The film explores the way they are treated by the staff, the boys personal struggles and how it affects their relationships with each other and the bitter struggle to try and escape the horrors, both mentally and physically. The movie came from 10 years of research which was condensed but not diminished, into 48 hours of filming.
So when we discovered Bastøy, a film by Michel Kapteijns, we wanted to know more about this documentary film which follows the inmates on Bastøy today. The setting is the same to the fictitious movie but in this film we can see Bastøy through a more positive lense. The rehibilitation, the build up of self worth and the effort to open up emotions are all very apparent to see. Just how much of a difference would this of made to the boys on Bastøy all those years ago.
Nordophile recommends watching this film by Michel Kapteijns against “King of Devil’s Island’ and compare for yourself.
Prison Island Bastøy
“Compared to a closed prison, this is Heaven. Compared to freedom, this is still Hell.”
The island lies in Oslofjord, Norway. 115 men are imprisoned there: bank robbers, drug dealers, sex criminals, Hell’s Angels, frauds, gang leaders and murderers.
Mostly serving long terms. On the island there are no cells, no cameras, no fences.
The guards don’t carry weapons while the prisoners work with chainsaws and kitchen knives.
It’s only a two-hour swim to the mainland and yet no one goes for it.
The men who live on Bastøy are all serving the last part of their sentence. Often they have forgotten what it means to care for themselves, or each other.
They have stopped making plans for the future. On the island the men live in a halfway house, between prison and society.
Each prisoner has a task.
Tom works with the cows, cleans out the cowshed and is fully responsible for the animals. He’s been imprisoned for violent crimes and is the youngest prisoner on the island.
Tom is teaching himself to play the guitar that the priest lent him.
Runar the horse whisperer is also assistant verger at the church. He got a three-year sentence for fraud.
Runar has lived on Bastøy for two years. “It’s good here, I have a special contact with the horses, they understand exactly how my heart feels.”
Michael, 19, received a three-year sentence for attempting murder and works in the carpentry shop.
He is a fierce kid with decided opinions on paedophiles and rapists. “If this was a closed prison, they’d all be dead now,” he says.
If he sees a car belonging to the guards, he feels the urge to “borrow it” and race through the woods. The temptation is too great.
Per Inge is a calm and intelligent man in his 40s who has been dealing drugs for twenty years; he has been in jail before.
He expects to be released soon, but he has no idea what he should think and do when he returns to the real world after 14 years in detention; he has lost his family in the meantime and is all alone.
“Bastøy is an arena for the development of responsibility” the website of the prison promotes.
On Bastøy, they don’t believe that criminals become better people if you punish them long and hard. What can someone do if they find themselves back on the streets, coming straight from the cell?
If you give people responsibility and mutual respect in steps there might be a bigger chance that they will pick up their life again.
The approach seems to work: in Western Europe, an average of 60–70% former prisoners relapse and return to their bad ways. On Bastøy, that is only 30%.
Utrecht (comp.), IDFA selection, Prague, Pärnu, Gdansk (PL)