Grimmfest Easter 2022: Toppling Corporate “Cult”Ure in a Pure Place

Image courtesy of The Playmaker

Hierarchal dystopias with social metaphors are sort of becoming my jam. Films like A Pure Place that feature class systems with non-existent monetary systems implicating corporate paradigms designed to take advantage of their employees, or utilize Mein Kampf methods to indoctrinate their employees to adhere to a belief-based strategy, are atypical in genre film (I mean, that’s pretty specific), but companies outwardly attempting to behave like chummy individuals are rather pervasive in our society. You’ll see a lot of this toxic behavior coming up in June when, for example, large corporations will say they support LGBTQ+ rights in tweets and posts, turning around to give large sums of money to support political campaigns that do far more to supersede the sentiment. This is the subversive and subtle world where Nikias Chryssos’ film lives.

Irina stands in her drab rags, her face covered in dirt in A Pure Place

While LGBTQ+ rights are not specifically on the table in A Pure Place, basic human rights are. Opening the film with a pair of kids robbing a bodega and fleeing to a beach scene, a man watches in the distance. We see him standing there across the way, on his island of ego, watching the children on a day that replays in their heads. When the film is over, audiences will think about this first time we see Fust (Sam Louwyck). The shot establishes the contrast between the wealthy and the rest of society, an underlying allegory about people in power seizing what they want. In the next scene, we meet the two children, Irina (Greta Bohacek) and Paul (Claude Heinrich), who now work for the white-collar eccentric. Slightly older and constantly covered in dirt, the pair are a part of the soap-making class on Fust’s island, ironically unable to use the product they produce. 

Irina and Paul suffer together in the bowels of the island. Slaving away with a co-opted group of young believers who think they’re a part of something larger than themselves. They endure each day with the faith that they’ll be plucked from the obscurity of their drone-like reality and move into the more enlightened “pure” group on the island that takes part in fancy banquets and play a more significant role in directly pleasing their Earth walking deity. We learn Irina and Paul came to be on the island in the wake of their mother’s death, but even that story unfolds with great profundity and revelation as well. 

There are so many layers to deconstruct in the brilliant script by Chryssos and Lars Henning Jung. From the start, it permeates with societal overtones of issues plaguing our reality by organizations that take advantage of wide-eyed workers. The pair incorporates a sense of cult-like mentality into the metaphor to imbue a sense of religion into corporate culture strategy, helping connect a worker’s paradise with the dangling carrot of promotion through literal trickledown economics. The result of these hardships is what A Pure Place calls “Elysion,” based on the tale of Hygieia: the Greek goddess of health and cleanliness. Elysion is a worker’s heaven of cleanliness and godliness just upstairs from the dregs, who are often referred to and treated like dirt. The myth of Hygieia is told at the start and has a lot to do with how the film eventually ends. 

Fust and Irina stand in front of a statue at a lavish altar in A Pure Place

A Pure Place’s conflict occurs when Irina moves upstairs, abandoning her brother after feeling personally plucked by Fust to enter this domain of lavishness and ease. There are hazing rituals, as well as that awkward German influence I mentioned earlier, used to laud power over and seduce the newcomer to this boardroom of arrogance and narcissism. Irina’s presence shakes up plenty on this island that lives by its own conceited laws because when you’re rich, consequences are almost non-existent.  

I caught some Holy Mountain vibes early on in A Pure Place. More visually than anything, some of the shots in Chryssos’ film are decadently elegant and captivatingly beautiful. Adding the clashing elements of dirt and violence, scenes transition into something artistically striking in a way I found resembled Jodorowsky’s film. The content of A Pure Place also becomes increasingly more cultish over time, which may help that parallel with Fust also exuding an air of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master as well. There are also the obvious references to the dry, sardonic wit of Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth, which cultivates deadpan emotions from an audience that might be befuddled by the delivery. We’re beginning to see the Lanthimos’ style of expressionless tragicomedy more often, which elicits strong reactions from people one way or the other. Fans of his films or the just-released Dual will enjoy the straight-faced fable of A Pure Place too. 

Chryssos’ film is an immersive, if not uniquely disturbing, experience. There are likely to be two trains of thought that emerge from showings of A Pure Place. But love it or hate it, you have to admire the film’s depth and imagery. For me, this was among the best experiences of the festival. Everything conveyed on screen has a place, and nothing feels like filler or fruitless exposition. I never felt bored or lost, just interested in seeing how the film would come together. And the performances were on par with the rest of the production, absolutely perfect.  

Fust dressed in a white suit holds his hands up just inside of a marble archway in A Pure Place
Image courtesy of Grimmfest

Perhaps it is a cinematic and high-art sort of film, but for as clean as everything begs to be perceived, it’s also one of the most vile. I said at the start that by the end of the film, you’ll wonder about that first shot of Fust, which infers some Jeffery Epstein qualities into the character, offering a fascinating study into the elitist mentalities of people who take whatever they want. By the end, an uprising, a mass exodus, deadly sins, and a new chapter manifest from the chaos before the credits roll. If that doesn’t scream “perfect Easter movie,” I don’t know what does. A Pure Place is so on theme as a part of the festival it’s scary. 

A Pure Place played as a part of Grimmfest Easter 2022.

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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