×

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

  • David Crosby

    David Crosby Says New Documentary 'Remember My Name' Is Like 'Being Naked in Public’

    “It’s not easy. It’s hard being naked in public,” David Crosby, the legendary troubadour of classic rock, reflected at Tuesday night’s New York City premiere of “David Crosby: Remember My Name.” “I don’t know what to do here. There’s no guitars, no drums,” he laughed. Directed by newcomer A.J. Eaton and produced by the legendary [...]

  • Javier Bardem Dune

    Javier Bardem in Talks to Play King Triton in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Javier Bardem is in talks to play King Triton in Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. Harry Styles is also in early talks to play Prince Eric. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • UglyDolls

    STX Tries to Put Flops Behind It as It Searches for Star Executive, Fresh Capital

    After a series of film flops and an aborted initial public offering, STX Entertainment is battling mounting skepticism that it can survive in an increasingly unforgiving movie business. As it hustles to find $500 million in fresh capital, the company, which operates in the red according to financial disclosures, is simultaneously hoping to attract a [...]

  • Ryan Simpkins

    Ryan Simpkins Joins Fox-Disney's 'Fear Street' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ryan Simpkins has joined Fox-Disney’s second installment of 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment’s “Fear Street” trilogy, based on the novels by R.L. Stine. Leigh Janiak is helming all three films. Previously announced cast includes Gillian Jacobs, Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zukerman, Fred Hechinger, Julia [...]

  • MPAA Logo

    Motion Picture Association of America Hires Emily Lenzner as Communications Chief

    The Motion Picture Association of America has appointed veteran public relations executive Emily Lenzner as its executive VP of global communications and public affairs. She will report to Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin and oversee the trade group’s communications team in the U.S. and internationally. Lenzner will start Aug. 1 and be based at the MPAA’s [...]

  • 'Cats' Teaser Trailer: See Taylor Swift

    Taylor Swift Unveils Feline Moves in 'Cats' Behind-the-Scenes Teaser

    Taylor Swift fans finally get to see some of the results of all those years spent studying her roommates Meredith and Olivia — and also, not incidentally, some time with a choreographer — in a new behind-the-scenes teaser for the movie “Cats.” The three-and-a-half-minute featurette has footage of Swift striking crouching feline moves as well [...]

  • CGR’s Immersive Premium Format Set for

    Immersive Theater Technology Set for US Debut in Los Angeles

    French multiplex company CGR Cinemas has selected the Regal LA Live as the first U.S. theater to use its Immersive Cinema Experience technology. The ICE format will be unveiled in the fall at the downtown location in a partnership between CGR and AEG. The companies made the announcement Wednesday but did not reveal which title [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content