A Pure Place (2021)

A Pure Place
Director: Nikias Chryssos
Writer: Nikias Chryssos, Lars Henning Jung
Cast: Sam Louwyck, Greta Bohacek, Claude Heinrich, Daniel Sträßer, Daniel Fripan, Wolfgang Czeczor, Lena Lauzemis, Mariella Josephine Aumann
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) white supremacy, fascism and cults

When they were very small, Irina (Greta Bohacek) and her brother Paul (Claude Heinrich) came into the care of soap producer Fust (Sam Louwyck). That means, they started working in his factory and learned to revere him like a god, always hoping to be pretty and clean enough to make it from below (the factory) to above (his mansion). And it seems that Irina finally gets her chance at a turn in the light when Fust grows tired of one of his followers. Only that this means that Irina has to leave Paul behind.

A Pure Place starts off well enough, with building up the whole setting as a thinly veiled allegory for white supremacy. But then it gets lost in its own story, seems to turn in circles and never reaches a satisfying conclusion. Plus, there were some really problematic elements with regards to Irina and the male gaze that ruined the film for me a little.

The film poster, drawn comic-style, showing Irina (Greta Bohacek) as a greek statue with a snake and a goblet. Behind her we can see Fust (Sam Louwyck), his arms spread wide and his congregation with soap around their necks, some wearing hooded robes. In front of Irina we can see Siegfried (Daniel Sträßer) self-flagellating.

Given the state of the world, we can definitely use movies that take on white supremacy, fascism and cults in a critical manner. And the film gets the allegory pretty right here – the charismatic leader figure, Fust’s obsession with ridding the world of dirt (literally and figuratively), the strong class division, the classicist aesthetics paired with some Germanic mythology – it all fits together very nicely. But after that set-up, the film doesn’t seem to know where to go from here and loses its grip on the narrative.

It doesn’t help either that the film was filled with the male gaze. This combined with the fact that Irina seems to be about 14 years old in the film was already very uncomfortable. That she throws herself at Siegfried (Daniel Sträßer) who is obviously much older, has Lolita-like “she seduced me” vibes that the film does not treat critically at all. And when Siegfried actually finds Elysion between her legs, I absolutely lost it and not in a good way. It makes the entire film creepy as fuck in its sexualization of a child.

Fust (Sam Louwyck) preaching to his followers.

That Paul is the one who starts the revolution, while Irina completely falls for Fust and his shtick also had me rolling my eyes a bit. In any case, it led to the film swapping one charismatic leader figure for another instead of dismantling the very idea that we should be following people like that.

In any case, after the strong set-up, I was quickly irritated and also a little bored with the film. It had potential, I thought, to become something like Snowpiercer, with which it does share some themes and aesthetics, but it lacked the necessary clarity to tell its story coherently.

Paul (Claude Heinrich) looking at three piglets in a cage.

Summarizing: I’d rather watch Snowpiercer again.

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