Director: Lukas Moodysson
Producer: Lars Jonsson
Written by: Lukas Moodysson
Cast: Gustav Hammarsten, Lisa Lindgren, Michael Nyqvist, Emma Samuelsson, Anja Lundkvist, Ola Norell, Jessica Liedberg
Rating: out of 5
Okay, so the moniker “Danish feel-good movie of the year!” doesn’t really mean much to an American audience that sees two or three Danish movies in a decade, but it fits somehow. Winner of the Audience Award at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, TOGETHER (TILSAMMANS in Danish), leaves you with a warm feeling that we actually can get everything worked out between ourselves, and if a few people get mad in the process, that just means we’ve finally been honest.
The story, set in 1975, centers around the progressive commune Tilsammans, a not-terribly-large house inhabited in the beginning by eight adults and two youngsters, who run the political and philosophical gamut from free love to socialism with many stops along the way. The environment is dynamic and exciting, every act a political act, including eating, sex, and whether or not to wear clothing in the kitchen, and the commune argues constantly about everything because it is all important. Moodyson creates a dead-on depiction of the contradictions and absurdity of the hippie life without ever condescending to his subjects or his audience.
Add to this mix Elisabeth (Lindgren), the middle-class sister of Göran (Hammarsten), the eternal optimist and commune doormat, and her two suspicious children, all in flight from Elisabeth’s abusive husband, and the situation starts to come apart at the seams. I know, I know, this doesn’t sound like light fare, and it isn’t. But the journey to the resolution, both funny and painful, shines on the screen and into your heart.
The predominant colors of the film, reds and golds, add to the ’70s feel of the piece, as if it had been shot in 1975 and only recently unearthed for public viewing. This style, also used in LUMUMBA, which uses ’60s-style footage to place the events in time, works elegantly by tricking the viewer into accepting what might otherwise be over-the-top period touches (like the gaudily painted Tilsammans van and the almost cliched decorations in the commune).
The characters emerge from their separate stories marvelously, a credit both to Moodysson’s direction and the uniformly terrific performances of the actors. Each character must confront a reversal, either internal or external, that changes them forever. The actors do a lot of heavy lifting emotionally, and Moodysson keeps them always just short of melodrama. The one criticism I have of his writing and direction is that one of the commune’s families, Signe, Sigvard, and their child Moon, exist only to get angry in a couple of scenes. The rest of the film ignores them, so their sudden vehement reappearance halfway through seems contrived.
That said, I should also warn that despite its family issues, TOGETHER ain’t no family movie, at least not for non-hippie families. Go with friends, take a date, or just go alone. TOGETHER brings us all into its non-traditional family and gives us a little more appreciation of those freaks across the street as well, be they liberal or conservative.
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
It’s worth a full-price ticket.
It’s worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...