Review: Punishment (2024)

Official synopsis:
A soul-searching portrait of four inmates in a Norwegian prison.

Director Øystein Mamen wants us to consider what prison is supposed to accomplish. Be a punishment? Yes, but what about rehabilitation? Can you truly come back from something horrible you've done? Can you repent? Could you ever forgive? By following four prisoners who are given the opportunity to take part in a silent spiritual retreat, that's what he sets out to explore.

"Retreat" makes this ordeal sound more lavish than it is. These inmates aren't on vacation, and they talk in detail about how they've grown to like the "lock down" part of their day. It's quiet, they're alone, and they can control what's in their cell. The real world is like sensory overload. Here, there's not much speaking. While the exercise is religious, it was open to all faiths, not just Christians. By the end of it, you can make the judgement on how well this exercise worked for them. The men they chose were all very well spoken. Was that after careful consideration or who they would feature? 

I think this is a fascinating concept. I don't know anything about Norwegian prisons or their criminal laws, so I went in with a very curious mind. It's shot in a stark black and white. It makes for some beautiful still imagery, but it also contributes to the films main detriment, and that's its pacing. Because we're watching through this cold lens, you're acutely aware of just how slow this movie is. There's several periods of silence and other scenes start to feel repetitive. It feels much longer than it's 90 minutes. I wonder if it would've made a better short film?

It's hard to ignore the films pacing, even with the interesting concept. Even though I didn't love it, I still find it very much worth the watch. Punishment originally premiered at SLAMEDANCE in January.

Grade: C+


  1. I might check this out as I do find things like this to be interesting. I don't mind slow pacing as long as it has something to offer.

    1. This might work for you better than it worked for me!


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