Together written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, produced by Lars Jonsson, with Gustav Hammarsten, Lisa Lindgren, Michael Nyqvist and Jessica Liedberg. 106 minutes. A Film Tonic release. Opens Friday (November 2). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 79. Rating: NNN
Don't be fooled by those Ingmar Bergman films. The Swedes do have a sense of humour, although they certainly aren't fond of frivolity. Since Bergman retired from making movies almost 20 years ago, Sweden has produced a new generation of filmmakers interested in dismantling the nation's reputation as the epicentre of very serious cinema.
Thirty-two-year-old Lukas Moodysson made a splash with his endearing 1999 debut film, Fucking Åml, which focused on a teenaged dyke dealing with her feelings for the most popular girl in school. It was a sweet but never over-sentimental coming-out film, and it marked Moodysson as a writer/director to watch.
His latest, Together, looks at life in a Swedish commune in 1975. Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren) leaves her abusive husband, Rolf (Michael Nyqvist), taking her two kids to her brother Goran's (Gustaf Hammersten) home, a commune called Together.
Together's proletariat-loving group includes the wishy-washy Goran, his free-loving girlfriend, Lena (Anja Lundkvist), acrimonious couple Anna (Jessica Liedberg) and Lasse (Ola Norell), who've just gotten divorced because Anna believes she's a lesbian, and the lonely gay Klas (Shanti Roney).
Together speaks to those who've lived in cooperative households and have had to endure never-ending house meetings, petty disagreements that get blown way out of proportion and the inevitable feelings of sexual attraction for someone who thinks of you as a "real good friend."
Moodysson is guilty of raiding the stereotype cupboard. There's the bearded, vest-wearing, indecisive nice guy in Goran. Anna is the short-haired, feminist-turned-lesbian intent on seducing every woman she sees. And Klas is the sad-eyed fag who likes to weave. Part of me hates the way Moodysson stacks up the simplified, codified characters, but I also appreciate his sincerity. He never openly mocks these people, and in fact holds them in a sort of misguided esteem.
Moodysson gives the film a documentary feel. There are lots of hand-held shots, but he also uses the neat trick of setting up group shots and then quickly zooming in on the person who's speaking. It's a bold technique that lets the director control our attention and the way we see this free-wheeling house.
Moodysson's greatest strength lies in the way he deals with childhood trauma. The tribulations of Elisabeth's two children, preteen Eva and 10-year-old Stefan, are masterfully rendered. The kids never trust the adults around them -- and why should they? -- but they long for the security only adults can offer. The kids are the bravest people in this silly but lovable bunch of idealists.