“PURE” directed by Lisa Langseth (“Till det som ar Vackert”)

Image“PURE”    (“Till det som ar Vackert”)   directed by Lisa Langseth (her debut film)

 – released in Sweden, October  2010


On16 Feb. 2014 TV  SBS 2 (Australia) showed “PURE”, starring Alicia Vikander, as Katarina and Samuel Froler as Adam.

The director Lisa Langseth, also wrote this screenplay, based on her own play, “The Loved One”.

If you are able to – please watch this film on SBS ON DEMAND, via your Smart TV or Computer.

Half way through the film, I reminded myself, ‘this is an actress, playing a part’. It hadn’t crossed my mind since the beginning, so wonderful is the performance, and I immediately forgot that fact again, after it flashed into my mind.

Alicia Vikander is on screen in every scene and her expressive, intelligent face is our window into the soul of a bright young twenty-one year old, Katarina, who has grown up in under-privileged conditions, despising her struggling, suicidal mother, and knowing in her heart of hearts that she has the intelligence and sensibility to be more. She blurts out to her mother, “I will never be like you,” however, that is the way her life is going.

She lives with Mattias, a kind-hearted, loving, but uninspiring young man who loves her, but with whom she is as different as night and day.

One day while searching YouTube for some trivial music clip, she stumbles upon Mozart’s Requiem.  The power and beauty of the music transports her, and she attends a concert at Gothenburg’s Concert Hall.

 A few days later she sneaks into the building and listens to a rehearsal. She is discovered by another staff member, and mistaken for an applicant for an advertised job – receptionist, that she doesn’t even know about.  

However, the unemployed Katarina is a bright girl and when asked if she’s there for an interview, she says “Yes”.  She lies colourfully, about her deceased mother being a concert pianist in Australia, but gives a good impression to the female interviewer and gets hired for a trial period. Katarina starts work, keeps her mouth mostly shut, and listens and observes. Pretty soon, she is doing her job well and loving it – and everyone is happy with her. She is inspired by this sudden step up in her circumstances, and the more cultured surroundings. Previously she has had problems keeping boring or menial jobs, and is well known to the social-services workers.

The orchestra conductor chats with her, offers her a lift home, and lends her books on philosophy.

He tells her “Courage is life’s only measure,” – a quote from Kirkegaard.  She certainly knows this, (she has lived it) and sees it in a whole new light too, as her new job is offering her so many thrilling experiences, and she is learning a lot.

Here is an important theme:  How many talented and brilliant young people are being wasted, by unequal opportunity, by an under-privileged upbringing? 

The sound of Mozart has awakened Katarina’s consciousness to the fact that she has more to offer, more to achieve, and when she hears the Kirkegaard quote, it resonates with her.

As she spends more time with Adam, the orchestra conductor, they begin an affair. He is married and has a child, and doesn’t hide this fact. He has seen that he has dazzled the naïve (in some ways) Katarina, and takes advantage of her. She is caught up in the magic of his knowledge, culture and his ability to draw magical music from the orchestra. But mostly for her, he is her access into a world she has not been able to enter before, a world that she was made for. She is sensitive, intelligent, and adores classical music, and yet her under-privileged life has so far denied her entry to this world.

So when he tells her that it’s over, she is desperate. She begs and pleads but to no avail.  Adam has toyed with this lovely young girl, and now wants her out of his sight, prioritising his career, so arranges for her to be “let go” from her job. As the conductor, everything revolves around him, so he has this power.  When she hears this, she humiliates herself, begging him, and even reverts to her past life, engaging in oral sex with Adam as a desperate form of begging.

 It still doesn’t work. She is fired, and since she has split up with her boyfriend, and her mother is now in hospital after a suicide attempt, Katarina is living on the streets. But still she has a survival instinct, and pulls herself together for one last attempt to beg him (waiting in his office after a concert) to make it possible for her to take another position which had been offered to her, involving  the concert hall’s marketing activities to the younger generation. She promises to have no further dealings with him.

But Adam is now utterly cruel, and humiliates her even further. He plays with her like a cat, with a half-dead mouse.  She has a past full of sexual humiliation, so co-operates with him, but finds he has lied to her again.  She is outraged beyond control. Here is where Kirkegaard’s philosophy leaps into action within Katarina.

This sudden fall from great heights back to street-level cold hard reality, at least unites Katarina with her hospitalized mother. The younger woman has now experienced the crushing blows of fate that have brought her mother to desperation.

Katarina is just one of millions of under-privileged young people in this world, within whom vast potential is lying undeveloped.  Katarina has a fighting spirit. She is stronger than a lot of people. She is prettier than a lot of people.  She has at least these two advantages, and most of all she is now powered by the vast inspiration of classical music. It has raised her consciousness and her will to survive, to great heights. Her ambition has been awakened, because she has found a way out of the trap of mediocrity, where poverty was keeping her.  She didn’t belong in that world.  Classical music is what showed her, her true potential.

This is a wonderful film, which hasn’t left my mind since seeing it a day ago.

Lisa Langseth is a wonderful new director to watch out for and Alicia Vikander has already been seen in “A Royal Affair”,so it seems that her career as an actress is assured.

Review by Cynthia Webb






About cynephilia

Lifetime student of and devourer of international Cinema. Artist, teacher, traveller - especially to my "other home", Java, Indonesia. Features writer for 14 years, for The Jakarta Post, national English language daily newspaper. I was born in New Zealand, but lived in Queensland, Australia since 1970. My profound link with Indonesia began in 1983, when visiting Bali (then an island of arts and of inspiration for an artist), and then again in 1994 when a visit to Yogyakarta, Java, began a process of that town and it's warm people becoming another home and extended family for me. Yogyakarta is the Artistic capital of Indonesia, and so it was the place for me. In 2000 I became a regular contributor about the arts for The Jakarta Post, and cinema, my lifetime passion, later began to become my focus for writing. The advent of The Asia Pacific Screen Awards, (APSA) in South East Queensland, launched in 2007 gave me opportunities to meet some the great film-makers of Asia, and see their amazing work. APSA is a kind of "Oscars" for the Asia-Pacific Region.
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