Together (Sweden/Denmark, 2000)
The provocative and challenging Together is the sophomore effort from director Lukas Moodysson. Show Me Love, his feature debut, achieved a certain amount of worldwide acclaim during its international theatrical run during late 1999 and early 2000. Now, Moodysson is back with a much different kind of story that features the same focus on character interaction. The hallmarks of Show Me Love -- the believability of the protagonists and the urgency of their emotions - are very much in evidence throughout Together.
The film takes place on a commune in 1975 Stockholm. There, we meet a group of diverse and offbeat characters who are trying to live by the rule that there are no rules. Unfortunately, all this freedom is creating tension. For example, a young man named Goran (Gustav Hammarsten) mouths the platitude that he doesn't mind if his girlfriend, Lena (Anja Lundkvist), sleeps with someone else, while, in reality, her promiscuity is tearing him apart (especially when she confesses that she's never had an orgasm with him, but has experienced it with another man). Other characters lose and gain partners as result of homosexual tendencies coming to light. And there are always issues about who's going to do the chores. Responsibility is not high on anyone's list of priorities.
The catalyst for change comes with the arrival of Goran's sister, Elizabeth (Lisa Lindgren), and her two children. She is fleeing from an abusive marriage and has nowhere else to go. But, along with her family, she brings a dose of conventionality to the commune, and, even as the free lifestyle begins to transform her, so she affects a change in it. Two members, disillusioned by the diminished purity of the commune's new vision, decide to leave. Meanwhile, Elizabeth's son longs for communication with his estranged father.
Moodysson does not take a pro or con view of commune living. Instead, he shows the strengths and pitfalls of such a lifestyle. There's obviously a fondness to his approach, but he doesn't ignore the problems that eventually resulted in an end to commune life, reducing it to a fad of the '70s that became impractical in the more materialistic '80s. The director's focus is on the characters, and, despite having a large cast, he gets into each of their heads. We come to know every one of the commune members - who they are, why they're there, what their life philosophy is, and whether their needs are being met. And the commune isn't just a colorful backdrop against which the relationships can play out. The lifestyle is a critical component to every interaction. With Together joining Show Me Love in the international arena, Moodysson has shown himself to be a master of character development and simple (but not simplistic) storytelling.
Together (Sweden/Denmark, 2000)
Cast: Lisa Lindgren, Michael Nyqvist, Emma Samuelsson, Sam Kessel, Gustav Hammarsten, Anja Lundkvist, Jessica Liedberg, Ola Norell
Screenplay: Lukas Moodysson
Cinematography: Ulf Brantas
U.S. Distributor: IFC Films
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