REVIEW: A Pure Place (2021)

dir. Nikias Chryssos

On a remote, post-apocalyptic Greek island a cult run by enigmatic leader Fust (Sam Louwyck). This is a society where cleanliness is close to godliness and children are abducted, forced into slavery to produce soap emblazoned with the creepy boss’ name. In Fust’s world dirt – or the lack of – is seen as a sign of cult members’ caste and those who are banished are tarred both figuratively and literally with thick dirt.

Similar to the dynamics of most sects it is vulnerable children who bear suffer a myriad of abuses, events playing out here through the viewpoint of brother and sister Paul (Claude Heinrich) and Irina (Greta Bohacek) and their very different experiences within the community once they are separated.

Whilst Chryssos explores interesting territory about the exploitation of children, the choice to depict their sexualisation with the arc of Irina – who goes from child slave to being promoted to an “elder” – is one which feels like shock tactics rather than making any sort of moral objective. The overall aesthetic also feels at odds with itself: teetering on the edge of surrealism, audiences are forced into a constant hypnagogic dream state. The result leaves viewers uneasy, questioning what the overall standpoint of the filmmaker is, especially when it comes to scenes that are taboo. 

The final sequence switches tone sharply for a moment, with a much welcome descent into darkness that reveals the reality of cults and their psychopathic leaders, before reverting back to whimsy. Louwyck is expertly sinister as the detestable figurehead, playing Fust with a mix of vile playfulness and deplorable cruelty, borderline reminiscent of a certain historical dictator. However the problem remains that A Pure Place lacks conviction on its subject matter, leaving audiences uncertain over whether they should be taking it seriously or not. 

Ygraine Hackett-Cantabrana


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