A Pure Place (CFF) Questions Purity and Authority
Title: A Pure Place
First Non-Festival Release: July 29, 2021 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Nikias Chryssos
Writer: Nikias Chryssos, Lars Henning Jung
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Starring: Sam Louwyck, Greta Bohacek, Claude Heinrich
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Chattanooga Film Festival in 2022.
Siblings Paul (Claude Heinrich) and Irina (Greta Bohacek) grow up on a secluded island populated by the members of an eccentric cult. Headed by Fust (Sam Louwyck), the group adheres to strict rituals to maintain order. The children, and one of the members, are forced to dirty themselves in order to produce enough soap for the island to sell and for the adults to purify their bodies with in order to reach a higher level of being. When Irina comes of age and is allowed to pass into adulthood, leaving behind Paul, a chain of events set off that endangers everyone in the community.
A Pure Place is a tense and unnerving look at coming-of-age in a contradictory society with plenty of grit and edge.
The most fascinating aspect of A Pure Place is its juxtaposition of coming-of-age rituals with the concept of cleanliness and purity. All Irina has known her entire life is filth and squalor, so when she gets the chance to ascend to the ranks of the pure followers, she takes it happily. Fust’s hold on the island as the enigmatic leader allows him to mold her, along with the others, into exactly who he wants her to be. It’s clear that he has sexual intentions with her as his treatment of those who even come close to touching her in an “unclean” manner are met with retribution. Irina strives to fit in, partially because she wants to believe but because she seeks the acceptance, comfort, and warmth she was denied so long as a child.
While his sister lives in luxury, Paul must toil beneath the mansion. Paul rebels against the rules set forth by Fust by questioning him, intentionally causing trouble, and lashing out at the confines of his life. Pauls’ reaction to every obstacle Fust puts in his way is driven by his true care for his sister, even when she disowns him. This helps drive home another underlying theme of the movie: familial love. The duo’s love for each other is tested every step of the way and their development anchors the film when it gets lost in its own metaphors.
Beyond its meaty plot, A Pure Place is beautifully filmed and executed. Set in the Greek islands, A Pure Place is awash in dazzling shots and wide, sweeping camerawork. The island and soap factory look the epitome of luxury, almost like an exclusive day spa dropped in the middle of the Mediterranean. Contrasting with this, the underneath of the factory populated with children and their sullen manager showcases the very opposite image. The sweat, grime, and darkness depict what life without the care of Fust looks like: depressing.
Easily more drama than horror, A Pure Place is sinister enough to appeal to the genre crowd. Young actors Greta Bohacek and Claude Heinrich do an exceptional job portraying the captive children and approach their roles with ferocity and maturity. Sam Louwyck’s performance as Fust adds even more to the film, as he portrays the necessary shrewdness and duplicitous to solidify him as a true threat.
Disturbing and provocative, A Pure Place is an intriguing gem of a horror drama that relies heavily on its tenson and strong cast members to generate an appropriate amount of dread. Well-filmed and excellently paced, this film does a great job of not giving any easy answers. Very few come out clean in the end, but all characters get their moment to confront the worst parts of themselves and each other. Fans of more muted approaches to horror will enjoy the dark and comic approaches A Pure Place takes to its subject matter. If you are looking to clean up your watch list, this German import should certainly be a contender for a sleepy evening watch.
Overall Score? 6/10