I find it very curious how a film called "Evil", which claims to be anti-violence, has a curiously traditionalist view on fighting: trading blows is ok as long as the people who get their asses kicked really deserve it. Half the film is spent glorifying violence while the other half is spent criticizing it. There are scenes where we are expected to recoil, seeing violence as the messy and pathetic expression that it is, and others where we are expected to cheer on. These diverging points of view never relly mesh together, and make for an increasingly unsatisfying second half, and an absolutely phony ending.
The first half of the film is, on the other hand, very good. The writing is very pedestrian, but the performances are up to the task. The strongest portions are spent exploring life at the boarding school. Teachers (one of them a former nazi) do not hit the students, rather the students police themselves. It is slowly revealed just how sick this system is, how it escentially revenge as official policy, and sadism as authority. The enviroment, so peaceful on the surface, is complicated evey more by the presence of jewish stuents (a relatively new occurrance after WW2, and not entirely well looked at by a german teacher), noblemen and "common" rich students. It is not explicitly stated, but much of what happens in the film is the result of tension stemming class relations, propriety and traditional roles.
The romance has no place in the film, and its sole reason for existing is to provide the script's author with an out later on in the film. The fact that the woman in question is a servant at the school, and Finnish, adds to the class relations boiling pot, but does so in the most basic of manners. Her character could have been cut out and the film would have been the better for it.
What ultimately prevents the film from taking off is its confused morals. Despite its political overtones and somewhat allegorical nature, it is not sure what exactly it is trying to say so it swings, ambivalently, from one end of the spectrum to the other hoping to please everyone. Compromising in this fashion is cowardly, but the first half of the film is so strong is bears watching anyway.