Langseth’s first film Pure – Till det som är vackert (lit. For What is Beautiful) – made all the way back in 2009, could not have finished Day for Night’s Nordic Film Festival on a more jaw dropping note…
Katarina has been through the ringer: done unspeakable things for money, been called a hooker, worked in a school canteen, had an addict for a mother and a brainless fool for a boyfriend. One mistaken click on YouTube and Mozart enters her life. And few mistaken steps into the Konserthuset in Gotenburg and she lands herself a trial job as the concert hall’s receptionist. Classical music, Kirkegaard and the concert hall’s conductor Adam combine in a flurry of fantasy and the naïve Katarina is whisked off her feet and into a world that couldn’t be more different from the scuzzy apartment she shares with her layabout other half.
Alicia Vikander as Katarina is stunning. In Pure her hair is lank, she wears baggy T shirts and shapeless jeans, no make-up and carries her worldly possessions – a walkman and headphones – around with her in a plastic bag. Yet she is magnificent. We live every moment of desperation, joy, love, pain and madness with her. We live this story as Katarina and Lisa Langeth – Pure’s director – makes sure we are transported to Sweden and into her scruffy shoes.
We can virtually feel Adam’s caresses on our own neck as she sits with him in his sumptuous apartment, sipping wine and reading poetry. We feel her heart breaking and tears stinging as Adam flicks her aside like a cigarette butt. And one would never forget such looks of disgust and hatred when the maestro – Samuel Froler morphs from the-perfect-man to cold-hearted-bastard so seamlessly it is unsettling – finds Katarina has stalked back in to his office and debased herself before him again.
Pure speaks and appeals to the heart of real women that live in real life, not the life we think we should be living as handed to us by many films. Women who have longed after scumbags of men. Women who have bent themselves over backwards, made fools of themselves and made incredibly bad decisions out of passion for men. Women who have been and who are in denial. I wonder how the men in the audience took it!
Never has a film immersed me as sensually as this one. And with the talent and beauty of Vikander and a soundtrack of nothing but Classical Greats, this work of cinema is an utter treat. And even, dare I say it, one to rival the highly revered The Hunt.
Festival organiser Sonali Joshi was there to introduce the film and thank the embassies of all five Nordic countries for their support of the film program, especially the Swedish Embassy who laid on a spread of Tuborg beer and Scandinavian nosh from Cooper and Wolf (oh, what great meatballs they have!) in the Riverside Studio’s cosy bar area.
Given such prudent picking of locations and choice selection of films– with the exception of the seriously patchy documentary Space is Process on Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson on the Monday night – Day for Night’s festival has proved itself as one to make room in our diaries for.