The second feature from 31-year-old director Lukas Moodysson is as assured as his first, the internationally hailed “Fucking Amal” (aka “Show Me Love”). Story of a Stockholm commune in the mid-’70s, “Together” efficiently blends drama with humor and satire with pathos and affection. Pic’s exposure at the Venice Film Festival, following its local opening Aug. 25, should guarantee it both positive reviews and brisk sales to other countries.
Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren), abused by her husband Rolf (Mikael Nykvist), moves with her two kids, Stefan (Sam Kessel) and Eva (Emma Samuelsson), to the commune “Together” that her brother Goran (Gustaf Hammarsten) runs in a big old house in a Stockholm suburb. The place is already crowded, but, despite initial resistance from some of its members, the three newcomers are accepted in.
Life there is very different from what they’ve been used to, with casual attitudes toward nudity, sex, smoking dope and drinking wine. The atmosphere is also constantly charged with political debate.
Goran’s partner is Lena (Anja Lundqvist), who thinks that they should be allowed to sleep with whomever they fancy. Goran isn’t crazy about the idea but, being naturally pacific, he goes along with it.
Almost immediately, Lena beds Erik (Olle Sarri), who has rebelled against his bourgeois upbringing by becoming the most revolutionary member of the commune. With him, Lena experiences her first orgasm, and she later confesses to Goran that she was always faking it with him.
Other members of the commune include Lasse (Ola Norell), Anna (Jessica Liedberg) and Klas (Shanti Roney). Lasse and Anna were once married, but split up when Anna decided she was a lesbian.
Lasse makes fun of most everything that happens in the commune and rejects the advances of the openly gay Klas. Meanwhile, Anna takes a fancy to newcomer Elisabeth and befriends her.
There’s also a small boy, Tet (Axel Zuber), who got his nickname from the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. He plays games like “Pinochet torturing prisoners in Chile.”
Everything that happens in the house is watched and commented upon by neighbors Margit (Therese Brunnander) and Ragnar (Claes Hartelius), whose marriage is totally lifeless. Ragnar masturbates over porn magazines in the cellar every evening and his son, Fredrik (Henrik Lundstrom), is overweight and unhappy.
Latter befriends the equally unhappy Eva, who desperately wants her family to become a unit again. Her father, Rolf, who’s started drinking, finally decides to clean up his act and try to get the family back together .
Even though the action in the film takes place six years after Moodysson was born, the atmosphere and events ring very true. Young writer-helmer perfectly captures the idealism and cynicism that marked much of the leftist movement in Sweden during the ’70s, when everything was looked at through politically filtered glasses and even kids’ stories like “Pippi Longstocking” were deemed “a capitalist and materialistic tool.”
Moodysson pokes fun at much of this but also conveys the sense of group solidarity and belief in the power to change things that have since been totally lost in society.
However, pic is not just about a period 25 years ago. It’s also a very disturbing look (like Liv Ullmann’s “Faithless”) at how kids can often be lost and forgotten in the midst of egocentric adult behavior. The story of Stefan, Eva and Fredrik is the backbone of the movie, which early on, just after the family has arrived at the commune, has a harrowing scene in which Stefan wakes up in the middle of the night and desperately runs through the house screaming for his mother.
As in “Fucking Amal,” Moodysson has chosen to work with mostly unknown actors and shows a good eye for casting. Young thesps are especially good, with Kessel, seen earlier this year in a small part in Ella Lemhagen’s “Tsatsiki, Mum and the Policeman,” very convincing as little Stefan.
All tech credits are fine. Cinematographer Ulf Brantas (who also lensed “Fucking Amal”) and art director Carl Johan de Geer create realistic, warm settings that will ring very true to those who remember how Swedish communes looked at the time. Moodysson also makes inventive use of contemporary music, ranging from ABBA to political groups like Nationalteatern and keyboard player Bo Hansson’s musical adaptation of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”
Despite its Stockholm setting, pic was actually shot in Trollhattan on the west coast of Sweden. Town earlier doubled for the fictional Amal in “Fucking Amal” and rural Washington State in Lars Von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark.”