Co-writer/ director Thomas Vinterberg’s raw, incisive and involving 2016 Danish drama about an up-scale hippy commune in the Seventies focuses on the disintegration and death of a marriage in its tale of the clash between personal desires versus solidarity and tolerance.
Do you know what, greed and selfishness win out in the end! No really! And communes don’t work out? People argue and fall out? No really! Nobody wants to wash up? No really! Weirdly, the script (by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm) feels sincere and truthful and satirical and soapy at the same time. But the Danish sensibility and sense of humour are hard to fathom for foreigners.
It is very well written and acted, though it is rather static as a film, betraying its stage origins as a theatre play by Vinterberg, conjuring up childhood memories. Under the tricky circumstances of a none too sympathetic lead role, Ulrich Thomsen is excellent as the home-owner husband, Erik, whose father dies, leaving him a valuable, handsome-looking home.
Trine Dyrholm is also excellent as Erik’s free-spirited wife Anna, who has the idea of inviting motley folks into the house for collective living. As the folks include strangers as well as friends, again it is not going to go well. You could invite Hitler to stay with you on this living experiment.
But, in the end, it’s not about the commune, it’s about the marriage, and it successfully manages a contradictory warm and chilly portrait of a reasonably well-paired couple whose foolishness eventually tears them apart. And, all it all, its theme must be the impossibility of successful human relationships. That is chilly, but the warm bit is the slack it offers to its characters, particularly to the perpetually confused Erik and Anna. So there is both plenty to think about and plenty of entertainment value in The Commune [Kollektivet].
© Derek Winnert 2016 Movie Review
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