The tale of a young boy who learns magic from a powerful wizard, then discovers that his teacher has dark and dreadful plans for him and his fellow sorcery students sounds somewhat like a very famous series of books and movies. A series that has latched itself onto the hearts and minds of the entire world like a bespectacled enchanted limpet.
However Krabat and the Legend of the Satanic Mill promises much more than Harry Potter and the rip-off movie cash-in, as it is an adaptation of a German fantasy novel by Otfried Preußler – first published in 1971 – which has already be translated to the big and small screen as an animation and a TV series.
This is not to deny the impetuous for the 2008 movie, and its recent release on DVD in the UK may have something to do with this years filmic conclusion of J.K Rowling’s magical money making machine. But it does mean that Krabat should be given a fair chance to find its own audience especially as this dark tale is in many ways a million miles away from Harry Potter’s exciting escapades in its time, setting and tone.
Krabat and the Legend of the Satanic Mill is set in 1646 during medieval times in Europe, a continent decimated by the Thirty Years War and the plague. Orphaned and near starvation Krabat (David Kross) lives a lowly life barely able to survive by scraping a living begging whilst traveling the harsh land.
Visited in his dreams by eleven ravens, he follows them one night to an old eerie mill where he is taken in by the mill keeper who offers him a chance to stay with the other boys living there and work in exchange for his obedience and total loyalty. Agreeing instantly all seems idyllic at first with food and company and a new life completely free from the hardships of the past.
But all is not what it seems as the mysterious mill keeper is in fact a sorcerer supreme dealing in the dark arts and the more Krabat learns about black magic the more he realises that the mill is in fact a prison he cannot escape rather than the haven he had hoped for ultimately learning that “everything in this world has a price” (a lesson which after recent riotous events at home could be learned by a few teens today!)
With a setting dominated by war, starvation and disease, themes of religion and tradition verses devil worship and paganism and a group of male main characters uncomfortably coming of age and discovering girls and beer. This along with the death and dark magic help you to understand that Krabat and the Legend of the Satanic Mill deals with many things untouched by both Hollywood and Hogwarts.
The story takes in a massive time frame and watching Krabat develop from a child to a man is one of the most interesting aspects of the movie. The journey is helped by the excellent performance of David Kross and the other boys, especially his best friend Tonda played by Inglorious Basterds and The Bourne Ultimatum’s Daniel Brühl. As the one eyed agent of evil and magician master Christian Redl also delivers protecting and nurturing the boys one moment while abusing and threatening them the next.
Balancing a solid story of sorcery and the redemptive power of love with a hefty dose of action and effective special effects Krabat and the Legend of the Satanic Mill puts a decidedly European edge on the magic movies of recent years.
Like the amazing Rare Exports it is not suitable for all ages, however those kids and teens who can handle the darker tone and nastier scenes are set for a different discovery which is sure to entertain and enthrall them all.