Monday, May 15, 2017

Back to the 70s in Thomas Vinterberg's surprising period piece, THE COMMUNE

If you are expecting here -- because Thomas Vinterberg's new film, THE COMMUNE, takes place in and around one of those experiments in communal living that were popular in Scandinavia back in the 1970s -- something akin to another internationally popular Scandinavian movie about "community," Lucas Moodysson's Together,  better reset your sites. That earlier (2001) and quite funny/charming film was much more a rom-com-dramedy that this new effort. Oh, there are some laughs, all right, and romance (of sorts), too. But this is altogether a darker, deeper and more unsettling -- as we've come to expect from Mr. Vinterberg, who earlier gave us The Hunt and The Celebration -- look at the, ummm, "joys" of communal life.

The filmmaker, pictured at left, who co-wrote (with Tobias Lindholm) and directed the movie, wants to explore, as he always does, things like motive, need, and in this case especially, marriage and the male prerogative as middle age occurs.

While The Commune is indeed an ensemble film, that ensemble is clearly led by the couple -- played very well indeed by two fine Danish actors, Trine Dyrholm (shown below) and Ulrich Thomsen (two photos down). In fact, the movie mostly belongs to Ms Dyrholm's wife, Anna, who initially pushes her husband, Erik, into this new communal living and then lives to regret it.

As a dissection of marriage of a couple entering middle age -- exploring everything from their respective careers to their lovemaking and the psychology of their various behaviors -- the movie is first-rate, pulling no punches nor sugar-coating a thing.

Set in the 70s, when both feminism and greater sexual freedom for all were coming into vogue, the movie still makes quite clear the ways in which men act and women adapt. The new commune is born mostly because Erik feels that he, Anna and their teenage daughter, Freja (a terrific performance from newcomer, Martha Sofie Wallstrøm Hansen, below, who, if she wants to continue this career should probably shorten that name a tad) cannot afford to live in the large "family" house he has just inherited.

As the commune grows, we get a nice mixture of characters and types, the arrival of whom provides the movie with much of its humor, and then some surprise and unexpected drama. Leading the little group is an actor of whom TrustMovies grows increasingly fond: Fares Fares (at left, below), who did such a fine job playing second fiddle in the recent Department Q trilogy and made worthwhile appearances in two of the Easy Money movies.

Other members include the initial couple's best friend, along with a sweet, trouble pair and their little son, who turns out to not be quite as healthy as we earlier imagined, and finally a newcomer (Helene Reingaard Neumann, below, right) who can perhaps be called a "marriage destroyer." Or maybe not.

Because of Vinterberg's astute handling of everything from psychology and sexual roles to guilt and responsibility, this marriage, as we discover, has most likely long been in trouble. As with so many of our lives, it simply takes some shaking up to bring out the truth of things.

From Magnolia Pictures, running 111 minutes, and in Danish with English subtitles, The Commune opens this coming Friday, May 19, in Los Angeles area (at Laemmle's Royal, Noho 7 and Playhouse 7) and New York City (at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and Landmark's Sunshine) and will spread out to another dozen cities in the weeks to come. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates.

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