House Party

Together written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, produced by Lars Jonsson, with Gustav Hammarsten, Lisa Lindgren, Michael Nyqvist and Jessica.

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.

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