You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Montreal Film Review: ‘The Disciple’

Finnish director Ulrika Bengts effectively downplays familiar themes and narrative beats in this handsome drama.

With:

Erik Lonngren, Patrick Kumpulainen, Niklas Groundstroem, Amanda Ooms, Ping Mon Wallen, Philip Zanden, Sampo Sarkola, Alfons Roblom.

A newcomer’s arrival exposes and eventually implodes a lighthouse keeper’s tyrannical rule over his wife and children in “The Disciple.” Second feature from Finnish director Ulrika Bengts (following 2011’s “Iris,” likewise an island-set period family drama) effectively downplays familiar themes and narrative beats amid solid perts and handsome widescreen presentation. Though not distinctive enough to attract wide arthouse export, the pic (which debuts on home turf late this month) should win select offshore sales through further fest travel.

Strong-willed Karl (Erik Lonngren), a very self-possessed 13-year-old, is dropped off by authorities as the government-assigned new assistant to lighthouse master Vilhelm Hasselbond (Niklas Groundstroem), but gets a frosty welcome from his would-be boss. Vilhelm says his own same-aged son, Gustav (Patrick Kumpulainen), is slotted for that job, telling the outsider that he simply needs to wait for the next return boat. But Karl will do anything to avoid being returned to the orphanage he was raised in (myriad whip marks on his back suggest one reason why), and determines to make himself useful whether he’s wanted or not.

At first Gustav is thrilled to have a friendly peer break up the family’s bleak geographic and social isolation, as are little sis Emma (Ping Mon Wallen) and their long-suffering mother, Dorrit (Amanda Ooms). But things turn sour when Vilhelm, impressed by the bright and ambitious Karl, begins using him to further browbeat his own insecure, desperate-to-please son. While not entirely mean-spirited, the patriarch’s ugly need for total control escalates in turmoil, including the cruel destruction of his wife’s only remaining private pleasure (a piano kept in the attic). When he finally reels entirely out of control, this domestic dictator’s subjects rebel at last.

Jimmy Karlsson and Roland Fauser’s economical script provides sufficient incident and psychological depth to maintain a credible tension, though the story still feels strongly reminiscent of other, more memorable father-as-abusive-drill-sergeant screen portrayals. It’s very attractively produced, however, with Robert Nordstrom’s 35mm widescreen lensing of stark, striking land- and seascapes a major plus.

Montreal Film Review: 'The Disciple'

Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Focus on World Cinema), Aug. 27, 2013. Running time: 93 MIN. Original title: "Larjungen"

Production:

(Finland) A Langfilm Prods. presentation. (International sales: Langfilm, Helsinki.) Produced by Mats Langbacka.

Crew:

Directed by Ulrike Bengts. Screenplay, Jimmy Karlsson, Roland Fauser. Camera (color, widescreen), Robert Nordstrom; editor, Tuomo Leino; music, Peter Hagerstrand; production designer, Katarina Lume; costume designer, Rikka Peter; sound (Dolby Digital), Risto Iissalo; assistant director, Vesa Niinivirta.

With:

Erik Lonngren, Patrick Kumpulainen, Niklas Groundstroem, Amanda Ooms, Ping Mon Wallen, Philip Zanden, Sampo Sarkola, Alfons Roblom.

More Film

  • Virginia Madsen Valeria Cotto

    Film News Roundup: Virginia Madsen, Valeria Cotto to Star in Supernatural Thriller 'Sarah'

    A newcomer’s arrival exposes and eventually implodes a lighthouse keeper’s tyrannical rule over his wife and children in “The Disciple.” Second feature from Finnish director Ulrika Bengts (following 2011’s “Iris,” likewise an island-set period family drama) effectively downplays familiar themes and narrative beats amid solid perts and handsome widescreen presentation. Though not distinctive enough to […]

  • avengers infinity war

    Can 'Avengers: Infinity War' Top 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'' Record Box Office Opening?

    A newcomer’s arrival exposes and eventually implodes a lighthouse keeper’s tyrannical rule over his wife and children in “The Disciple.” Second feature from Finnish director Ulrika Bengts (following 2011’s “Iris,” likewise an island-set period family drama) effectively downplays familiar themes and narrative beats amid solid perts and handsome widescreen presentation. Though not distinctive enough to […]

  • BondIt Media Capital

    BondIt Media Capital Closes $20 Million Credit Facility (EXCLUSIVE)

    A newcomer’s arrival exposes and eventually implodes a lighthouse keeper’s tyrannical rule over his wife and children in “The Disciple.” Second feature from Finnish director Ulrika Bengts (following 2011’s “Iris,” likewise an island-set period family drama) effectively downplays familiar themes and narrative beats amid solid perts and handsome widescreen presentation. Though not distinctive enough to […]

  • Brookings Institution presents "The Life She

    Brookings Institution Doc Puts a Human Face on the Medical Marijuana Movement

    A newcomer’s arrival exposes and eventually implodes a lighthouse keeper’s tyrannical rule over his wife and children in “The Disciple.” Second feature from Finnish director Ulrika Bengts (following 2011’s “Iris,” likewise an island-set period family drama) effectively downplays familiar themes and narrative beats amid solid perts and handsome widescreen presentation. Though not distinctive enough to […]

  • Playback Podcast: Aaron Katz on 'Gemini'

    Playback: Aaron Katz on 'Gemini' and the Erosion of Mid-Budget Studio Filmmaking

    A newcomer’s arrival exposes and eventually implodes a lighthouse keeper’s tyrannical rule over his wife and children in “The Disciple.” Second feature from Finnish director Ulrika Bengts (following 2011’s “Iris,” likewise an island-set period family drama) effectively downplays familiar themes and narrative beats amid solid perts and handsome widescreen presentation. Though not distinctive enough to […]

  • The Equalizer 2 trailer

    Denzel Washington Is Back in Action in 'Equalizer 2' Trailer

    A newcomer’s arrival exposes and eventually implodes a lighthouse keeper’s tyrannical rule over his wife and children in “The Disciple.” Second feature from Finnish director Ulrika Bengts (following 2011’s “Iris,” likewise an island-set period family drama) effectively downplays familiar themes and narrative beats amid solid perts and handsome widescreen presentation. Though not distinctive enough to […]

  • Robert Redford

    Robert Redford's 'The Old Man and the Gun' Lands Awards-Season Opening

    A newcomer’s arrival exposes and eventually implodes a lighthouse keeper’s tyrannical rule over his wife and children in “The Disciple.” Second feature from Finnish director Ulrika Bengts (following 2011’s “Iris,” likewise an island-set period family drama) effectively downplays familiar themes and narrative beats amid solid perts and handsome widescreen presentation. Though not distinctive enough to […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content