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Commune isn't what it's cracked up to be in Swedish drama

Friday, November 02, 2001

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

If you remember the pre-disco '70s with a flush of nostalgia for the passion of youth and utopian romanticism, the Swedish movie "Together" splashes you in the face with the cold water of realism.

Set in a Stockholm commune in 1975, "Together" introduces us to a volatile mix of people and philosophies.


RATING: R, for nudity/sexuality and language.

PLAYERS: Lisa Lundgren, Michael Nyqvist, Emma Samuelsson.

DIRECTOR: Lukas Moodysson.

WEB SITE: www.together



Erik (Olle Sarri) is a communist whose single-mindedness prevents anyone from taking him seriously. Anna (Jessica Liedberg) and Lasse (Ola Norell) got divorced when Anna decided she was a lesbian, but they both still live in the commune, which may explain his sharp-tongued sarcasm. Their son is named Tet, after the notorious Vietnam offensive. Another child in the group is named Moon. Klas (Shanti Roney) is gay and covets Lasse. Lena (Anja Lundqvist) has an open relationship with mild-mannered Goran (Gustaf Hammersten) and covets Erik.

There's hardly room for one more, but Goran brings three -- his sister, Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren), and her kids Stefan (Sam Kessel) and Eva (Emma Samuelsson). Elisabeth is hardly a political or social radical like the rest of the group, but she's fed up with her boozing, abusive husband, Rolf (Michael Nyqvist), and she has nowhere else to go.

Still, the family's introduction to the commune is hardly promising. They walk in while Lasse and Anna are walking around the kitchen bottomless while arguing about whether it's proper.

That's just the beginning of what seems like a nightmare for Stefan and Eva. The so-called adults act with shocking disregard for the sensibilities of the kids. In their minds, to do otherwise would be fascistic. We see them as spoiled overgrown children trying desperately to avoid growing up. Their irresponsible behavior is appalling. Their idealism appears largely manipulative.

Goran tries his best to hold everything together, but his need to please everyone turns him into a man unable to take a stand or question someone else's behavior. We sense that if he ever snaps, it won't be pretty.

Still, the new members of the commune, their needs and ideas start roiling the pot. Some rules are broken, others are modified. The hard-liners revolt. Meanwhile, Rolf hasn't given up on getting his family back.

The members of the commune are so unappealing for so much of the film that it's hard to gather much enthusiasm for the story. Yet director Lukas Moodysson shifts the dynamics of the movie as subtly and gradually as the changes at the commune. The tone of the movie has changed by the end of the film to such a degree that it takes us by surprise. The characters finally start to understand that togetherness is more important than politics, ideology or sexuality, which can tear people apart.

As in his previous film, "Show Me Love," Moodysson tells us the story largely through the sensibilities of its youngest characters. Stefan and Eva seem much more mature than the adults around them. We want to identify with them for that reason, but we also recognize in them the frustration, humiliation and yearning that comes with adolescence and its approach.

Despite their misery, they represent the hope of something better reflected in the final scenes of "Together."

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