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PURE ('Till det som är vackert') is a stunning little film from Sweden
written and directed by newcomer Lisa Langseth. It is currently in the
'on demand' section of Eurocinema on television and will likely be
released on a USA format DVD soon. The film embraces many subjects -
coming of age, the impact of classical music on young minds, affaires
de coeur, philosophy, the politics of concert halls, mother daughter
relationships scarred by mental illness - and in the end succeeds in
dealing with some ethical questions.
Katarina (Alicia Vikander, a brilliant, young, fresh 22 year old Swedish actress) lives in poverty with her boyfriend Mattias (Martin Wallström, a handsome, sensitive blue-eyed actor) in an unkempt apartment where Mattias spends his days watching television while Katarina seeks meaning to her grungy life on the streets as a prostitute. Her family is in disarray - her mother Birgitta (Josephine Bauer) is an alcoholic and a mentally ill wasted person - and Katarina is discontent. By chance she hears some Mozart played on the YouTube and has an epiphany moment. She has been a driven, hurt and hopeful soul, but Hearing Mozart somehow changes that. The music draws her to the Gothenburg Symphony Concert Hall where because of some free tickets she and Mattias hear a performance of the Mozart Requiem as conducted by Adam (Samuel Fröler): the experience bores Mattias but transforms Katarina. The concert hall becomes a magnet for Katarina and as she sneaks into the hall for a rehearsal of the Beethoven 3rd she is mistakenly identified by receptionist Nya (Isabella Bauer) as a potential candidate for job in the hall. Katarina's apparent love for music and her openness gain her the position of Concert Hall receptionist: she has escaped her dreary life and is surrounded by classical music. Gradually Katarina meets and becomes friends with Adam who finds her refreshing and in addition to talking about music he introduces her to great literature and philosophy. The bond grows and Katarina and Adam have an affair, a relationship that is transient because Adam is married. When Adam shares with Katarina that the affair must not go on, Katarina is crushed, and because of the fear Adam holds about her omnipresence in the concert hall, he has her fired. The manner in which this abrupt change in Katarina's transformed new life progresses echoes one of the phrases of Kierkegaard the Adam taught her - "Courage is life's only measure' - and the story takes surprising turns and an even more surprising end.
Much of the success of the film is due to the extraordinary acting by Alicia Vikander, a young talent who seems wise beyond her years as far as intuitive acting skills. The musical score is attributed to Per-Erik Winberg, though the music throughout the film is Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and Massenet. In addition to the story being well written and directed and performed, there is a secondary message for the audience: the introduction to classical music and to cultural concepts can change lives of young people if they gain exposure. It is a challenge we should attempt of provide.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I caught this movie at our local film festival and found the film
fascinating. It tells the story of a young girl Katarina, beautifully
played by Alicia Vikander, coming into her own maturity after being
exposed to timeless music and poetry. Through abit of courage, she
lands a job as a receptionist in city's music center, gradually giving
her the skills and independence she needs to succeed in life on her own
terms. Her reality is ugly at times, with a mother who is messed up and
suicidal. She depends on the men in her life to give her the
necessities in life. But soon we see her stronger side, longing for
this new reality of beauty and poetry missing from her old life...but
it's not that easy, and she does things that are wrong, terribly
wrong...A conscience, though, is not a luxury she can all afford. I
think the director wants us to take pity on Katarina. Katarina, I
think, doesn't want that.
Alicia Vikander is wonderful in the role. She reminds me of a young Sandrine Bonnaire. This is a star-making film for her and I'm looking forward to what she's going to do next.
Swedish playwright, screenwriter and director Lisa Langseth's feature
film debut which she also wrote, is inspired by her own play "The Loved
One" (2004). It is a Swedish production which was shot on location in
Gothenburg, Sweden and produced by Swedish producer and director Helen
Ahlsson. It tells the story about Katarina, a twenty-year-old woman who
lives in a gritty suburb of Gothenburg, Sweden with her alcoholic
mother who she despises. Katarina's unyielding attitude has lost her
many jobs, but after seeing a YouTube video of Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart's "Requiem" that makes a profound impression on her, she
develops a strong fascination for classic music. In search of a new
identity Katarina leaves her mother, her boyfriend and her friends, and
lies her way into a job as a receptionist at the Gothenburg Concert
Hall by telling the interviewer that her mother was a celebrated
concert pianist in Australia who died before she got the chance to know
her. Proudly conducting her tasks as a receptionist in her new and
improved social position, Katarina meets an orchestra conductor named
Adam who charms her with his knowledge about literature, philosophy and
the classics of music, but her life spins out of control when she
initiates a passionate and secretive relationship with Adam.
Finely and engagingly directed by director Lisa Langseth, this well-paced and intensifying fictional tale, draws an intriguing portrayal of a capricious, strayed and bordering on self-destructive young woman who grows increasingly obsessed with a successful conductor who she perceives as both a lover and a father-figure. While notable for its fine cinematography by Simon Pramsten and art direction by Lena Selander, the naturalistic urban milieu depictions and the efficient score by Per-Erik Winberg, this character-driven and somewhat theatrical thriller depicts a dark and internal study of character which examines themes like class and gender issues, identity and alienation.
This stringently narrated, finely tuned and poignantly atmospheric psychological drama, is impelled and reinforced by the remarkable and emphatic acting performance by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander in her first feature film role and the reverent acting performance by Swedish actor Samuel Fröler. A commendable directorial debut which gained the Flash Forward Award for Best Film at the 15th Busan International Film Festival in 2010, the Best Young Actor Award Alicia Vikander at the 41st Molodist International Film Festival in 2011 and the Guldbagge Award for Best Actress Alicia Vikander at the Guldbagge Awards in 2011.
Things like music, poetry, philosophy etc are essential details of this
film, but otherwise have nothing to do with its theme.
That theme is the corruption of innocence. Which puts it in company with other films like "The Go Between", "Rosetta", "Mouchette" or "Lord of the Flies", but "Pure" is realistic rather than romantic. The director, Lisa Langseth, probably has much in common with Anthony Trollope, who was once described as "compared to Trollope, even Balzac is a romantic".
The entire film depends on the performance of Alicia Vikander as Katarina, and that performance is flawless, first as a young girl of passion, through her disillusionment, and, at the very last scene, to her "graduation".
And special mention should be made of Per-Eric Winberg's music soundtrack, both his own compositions and those he selected from other composers are first class.
Music can change your life.
Everyone has experienced this at one time or other and this is the heart of Pure.
In this edgy immensely engaging drama a working-class girl with a borderline personality finds her life's passion in classical music.
The story is not what you could call enticing however the film is a triumph. Next to more prestigious and lauded films, such as Black Swan and Fish Tank, Pure is hands down the easy winner in terms of acting, directing and all round film-making. Alicia Vikander is now breaking out internationally as an actress in Anna Karenina and Royal Affair but once you see this film it is no surprise, she is heart-breaking and awesome in this.
I actually applauded in the screening I saw, this was during the film because of a plot twist and reflected the quality of the film and the brilliance of the script.
Catch this underrated gem as soon as you get the chance. Ken Loach should be worried, there's a new kid on the block and her name is Lisa Langseth.
About music? Or what, exactly.
Glam? Music is an art form.
To make a film about music, one should respect the subject and performers within the confines of the script.
Pretty faces do not music make.
Nor does production values film make. Scripting is story, production is canvas,direction is product.
Any musician would see, any at all, poor research on behalf of the writer(s).
Go for it with gusto next time, practice, practice, practice.
It is with dull merit that I had to include more lines than needed to get this review submitted. So be it. This film does not express what it tried to say, but follies about with faces and drama.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's hard to criticize somebody's good intentions. But in this case
I'll make an exception. This film is not very good. When you receive
some of the highest awards from the Swedish film academy, you expect
something spectacular. You don't find it in this film. Written,
produced and directed by women, this film is meant to express an honest
depiction from a female perspective. You don't find that either.
Instead we get a very naive and dated (i.e. unoriginal) story that
tells us that men are pigs that abuse and exploit women. Really, I
didn't know that...
The worst part is the extremely unoriginal screenplay that includes such Swedish classics such as: suicide, alcoholism, prostitution, depression, working class misery, nudity and melancholia.
If this was the BEST screenplay that year, I'd love to see the worst ones.
The writer's intentions might be sincere but far from original and very, very naive.
Perhaps this was meant to be a children's movie?
Or maybe it was all just a dream.
I don't want to rant, but could somebody please show these creatives some good political female oriented movies? Norma Rae, Network, The Piano....
Or perhaps the writer's intention is to say that a young woman, who feels upset after having had an affair with a married man, and being left by him, and unjustly terminated (from her trial employment), has the right to KILL that man (pig, oppressor) - and get away with it.
Perhaps this movie is genius after all.
Or maybe not.
Awful film - not one star only, because of some good acting and some good cinematography! Artsy-fartsy story about classical music and poetry as well as (the film-makers want us to think) love. A conductor has an affair with a 31-year-old younger receptionist, and they actually want us to think that it's romantic and beautiful. When he talks about music, art or literature, it's nothing less than ridiculous. I'm a musician myself, and if I ever worked with a conductor, speaking such nonsense, I made sure that either he or I quit the job. I don't know towards what kind of audience this picture is directed, but it certainly won't satisfy people who know anything about art or classical music, and is very unlikely to convince viewers who don't - unless they pretend that they do. I'm afraid, there's plenty of those, since the film was quite a success.
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