This semi-autobiographical story from writer Jan Guillou about private school education in the 1950s Sweden has a raw, edgy nature that makes it a powerful dramatic character study. Unfortunately, the film is somewhat flawed by simplified supporting characters and a lack of consistent directing by Mikael Håfström who cannot maintain a thin red line to make out in what light the film ultimately should be viewed. Is it a political comment? What is its ethical position? Håfström offers no answers to these and similar questions. The film obviously wants the viewer to make up his own mind, but the film is almost cynically provocative in order to get us there.
That narrows Ondskan down to a periodic and characterological portrait, but it is at times a very poignant one. Leading actor Andreas Wilson is a great talent, although he secludes a bit too much here, and the production looks brilliant, taking us wonderfully back to a time and an environment that is of undoubted interest. Ondskan was nominated for best foreign language film at the 2004 Academy Awards.