A psychiatric patient obsessed with the image of a ’40s movie heroine tracks her down in “Pure Hearts.” Swiftly paced debut by Danish helmer Kenneth Kainz tests the bond between viewers and his sympathetic protag with midsection violence, but corrects itself nicely in the run home. Dotted with lovingly recreated monochrome melodrama of a cinematic yesteryear, pic’s ultimately uplifting meld of real life and the movies should attract healthy numbers on the film’s Sept. 8 local release. World preem at Munich should also initiate long fest life and distribution in selected Euro territories.
Considering he suffers from Asberger’s syndrome, 29-year-old protag Kriss Henriksen (Anders Matthesen) introduces himself in voiceover as “a freak who should never have been born.” The reason for him having wound up on a psych ward is slowly revealed in grainy flashbacks to his life with a spiteful mother treating him as a liability in the hunt for a new hubby. Connecting past and present is Kriss’ obsession with “Pure Hearts,” a ’40s weepie whose spirited heroine Linda (Laura Bro) is done wrong by a succession of heartless men.
But his videocassette of “Pure Hearts” is missing the final minutes, and ends with Linda raising a gun to her temple. Evidently, his mom turned the film off while he was recording.
Kriss discovers Linda is real-life actress Ulla Villstrup and determines to save her. Guided by neatly intercut snippets of “Pure Hearts,” he escapes from the institution with his only friend, Willy (Morten Suurballe), a severely misanthropic type who solves all problems with violence until the police silence him.While some auds may be distanced by this sudden burst of violence, which shifts the pic’s tone into darker territory, the story wisely makes Kriss a bystander to maintain viewer sympathies.
His meeting with the now-aged Ulla (Helle Hertz) in the Copenhagen apartment she shares with granddaughter Charlotte (Hertz’s real-life daughter Laura Bro, again) is poignant.
Well-served by popular stand-up comedian Anders Matthesen essaying Kriss with just the right balance of innocence and potentially dangerous despair — he believes only purely good or purely evil people exist in the world — the pic’s highlight is the melodrama of his dreams. With tongue ever so lightly in cheek and Bro bearing more than a passing resemblance to Hanna Schygulla in her Fassbinder-era prime, these inserts easily seduce the viewer into Kriss’ mind.
Rest of the technical package is pro in all departments. Pic uses distinct styles to deliver its three different worlds: the cleanly shot present, grainy past and high-contrast inserts to suggest what’s going in Kriss’ head.