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FILM REVIEW The Place (2017)

The Place (2017)

By Sam Vaknin
Author of "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"


In the Italian film, “The Place” (2017), a man sits at the back of a cheap resto-bar and receives a seemingly endless stream of visitors. His interlocutors come to ask him to grant them their wishes and they are willing to do anything to realize their hiddenmost fantasies: rape a young woman, assassinate a toddler, or place a bomb in a busy disco. For these are the horrible tasks assigned to them by the mysterious figure in return for the guaranteed fulfillment of their wishes. Many of them, including a nun, have a thwarted relationship with god, good, evil, and family, both parents and children. In short: they are all typical human beings.


From the very beginning of this cinematic masterpiece, things don’t quite mesh. The stranger appears to be empathic and compassionate, worn out by the stories he hears, his lined face a mask of pain and absolution. He never judges, always understands and accepts the frailties and of his applicants. In a voluminous black-bound leather notebook, he meticulously records the inner dynamics, quirks, tortuous pathways, and emotions of his “clients”. These are the only times that he perks up: as a scholar of the human mind, soul, and heart.


Everyone thinks that he is the Devil and castigate him for it. But he keeps insisting that he is not the decision-maker, that he is working for a higher instance, and that he is concerned only with “the details” (the devil is in the details). Indeed, gradually it becomes evident that he is a mere courier, a salesperson, or, at most, a midlevel manager. But who is his boss? Not easy to ascertain for two reasons: he often allocates tasks so that one of his suppliants obstructs the other and prevents the hideous events from actually transpiring; and the outcomes of his assignments are invariably good, beneficial, even therapeutic. The bar’s busty maid, Angela, praises him for listening to people and conjectures that he is a psychologist.


Angela falls in love with this enigmatic benefactor of humanity and tries to bring light and life to his dreary confinement. At the very last moment of the film, it becomes clear that Angela is an emissary of God and that her love can redeem him and set him free from his purgatory. She signs the last entry in his book and whoever his superior may be, she prevails.


The film is a daring exposition of theodicy. It challenges and rebuffs our traditional views on good and evil, God and Satan. These concepts are fluid and they seamlessly intermesh to form unities, says the auteur. Our self-righteous distinctions are too crass to truly capture the finer grained intricacies, nuances, and subtleties of life. We judge others because we are limited entities and because we are grandiose narcissists who think they know everything.


Things may be preordained, but only if and when we settle on certain choices. The enigmatic man keeps telling his beseechers: “You can cancel the contract! You can forgo your wish! I cannot change what’s written in this black book, but you can walk away!” It is a rebuke of Calvinist predetermination and its pernicious abrogation of responsibility. The film is a celebration of the freedom and angst that are the human condition and how each fork in the road gives us a chance and the power to defy even the Devil, even God himself, as we mould our selves and our personal histories with our two all too mortal hands.

Moral deliberations in 20 films:


Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is Visiting Professor of Psychology, Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, Russia and Professor of Finance and Psychology in CIAPS (Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies).

He was the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101. His YouTube channels garnered 20,000,000 views and 85,000 subscribers.

Visit Sam's Web site at

Encyclopedia of Narcissism and Psychopathy

Buy 16 books and video lectures on 3 DVDs about narcissists, psychopaths, and abusive relationships
Dec/4/2018, 7:52 am Link to this post  

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