Katarina (Alicia Vikander) lives with her boyfriend Mattias (Martin Wallström) and fights with her mother (Josephine Bauer). Her life seems to stretch out before her: working a dead-end job, always this close to poverty, and having many children with Matthias. When she discovers classical music, a new world opens up to Katarina. After actually attending a concert together with Mattias, Katarina is even more intrigued. After losing her job, she returns to the concert hall and just stumbles into a job interview. Much to her surprise, the HR manager (Helén Söderqvist Henriksson) hires her. Her position is more than she hoped for, and puts her in the sight of conductor Adam (Samuel Fröler) who takes a liking to her.
Pure was a fantastic film debut for both Langseth and Vikander. It’s an intense portrayal of a young woman and a sharp look at the intersection of gender and class.
Pure is probably not a film that will surprise you with how things develop. Instead, it derives its tension from the fact that its events feel inevitable. Of course, the insecure young woman who has only learned to connect with men through sex will fall in love with the impressive, rich, cultured, older man who shows her a bit of attention. And of course, said man will feel flattered by the flirting of said young woman and will boost his own ego by fucking her, especially since he is in a creative rut. Of course, none of this can end well.
But with Vikander’s performance and Langseth’s sharp and insightful gaze, you become Cassandra, foreseeing the worst and not being able to warn the characters about it. Or rather, warn Katarina about it, because assholish Adam deserves catastrophe. And so, you watch, burning with Katarina, feeling her hope, her devastation, her feeling of betrayal, her anger, her naivité, her hope that somebody like Adam – who is obviously her social superior – might actually be better than her, and might take her up to his heights.
The film is incredibly intense, emotionally speaking. Saying that I burned with Katarina hardly feels like hyperbole, as her emotions did become a searing ball of pain in the pit of my stomach and left me almost breathless while watching the film. It’s really impressive.
Luckily, the film does find a positive ending for Katarina, and one that I absolutely wanted her to have. I’m glad that the film gave it to us, as I am generally glad that I saw the film.
Summarizing: absolutely fantastic.