The film, directed by Dome Karukoski, looks at a group of youngsters at a reform school for boys on an isolated island some decades ago. The main protagonist is Juhani (newcomer Niilo Syväoja), a 14-year-old with a troubled past who has difficulties adjusting with the other boys and the severe headmaster (Tommi Korpola).
Drenched in rain and snow, the atmospheric and gloomy tale is one that we have seen and heard before, though the film does have an original ingredient in the shape of the silkworms that are cultivated on the island (and give the film its poetic title).
Acting from the young boys, Korpola and Kaurismäki veteran Kati Outinen, as the woman in charge of the farm that is part of the school, is uniformly excellent.
Karukoski explained in Rome that his continued interest in youngsters and their problems stems from his previous career as a sports trainer for adolescents. His previous and next film are also about teenagers.
Dark Butterflies, a huge hit at home, represents Finland in the Foreign Language Oscar race. It is the second film starring Korpola in two years to receive that honour, after last year’s A Man’s Job [trailer, making of].
Based on a popular novel by Leena Lander, the film was produced by Markus Selin for Solar Films, with backing from the Finnish Film Foundation. It is sold internationally by Nordisk Film International Sales.
Boyd van Hoeij cineuropa.org