Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lisa Lindgren, Gustaf Hammarsten, Emma Samuelsson, Sam Kessel, Jessica Liedberg, Ola Norell, Shanti Roney
Written by: Lukas Moodysson
Directed by: Lukas Moodysson
MPAA Rating: R for nudity/sexuality and language
Language: Swedish with English subtitles
Running Time: 106
Date: 08/25/2000

Together (2001)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Hippie Replacement

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

"Franco is dead!" a radio announces in a Swedish hippie commune in 1975, kicking off the new film Together. And the hippies jump and cheer, even the children. Meanwhile, Che Guevara and Mao Zedong posters decorate the house. It's a surreal experience that slaps us in the face and lets us know that we're in a different world and a different time.

In Together a housewife named Elizabeth (Lisa Lindgren) leaves her alcoholic husband after being beaten by him and moves with her two unhappy children into the hippie commune to live with her good-natured brother Goran (Gustaf Hammarsten). Other members of the household include Anna (Jessica Liedberg), a newly de-closeted lesbian who appears at the house meetings naked from the waist down; her ex-husband Lasse (Ola Norell); and Klas, a lonely gay man (Shanti Roney) with a funky blond 'do.

Lukas Moodysson, the 32-year-old writer/director (Show Me Love), initially gives his commune a chaotic feel, especially in Elizabeth's first scenes there. But before long things begin to fall into a pattern, and characters groove into their predetermined destinies. Anna begins to flirt with Elizabeth, who enjoys her newfound freedom and goes along with it. Goran's overwhelming passiveness turns him quickly into a doormat (his girlfriend, played by Anja Lundqvist, asks if she can sleep with someone else, and he agrees). And Klas expresses his undying love for straight Lasse (who still pines for his lost wife). Other characters zoom in and out of the picture, but by the time the film reaches its third act, we know who the major players are.

Since Moodysson was too young to really identify with any of these people, we can tell his sympathies lie with Elizabeth's children, the young boy Stefan (Sam Kessel) and especially the teenage Eva (Emma Samuelsson).

Eva befriends a nerdy, bespectacled neighbor boy from across the street and explains to him her take on the whole basic idea behind the commune: to do and think the opposite of what's normal. Boys should sleep with pink pillowcases and girls with blue ones. If you're sad, you say you're happy. (Eva is even perceptive enough to realize that all their clothes and music are quite bad, with the possible exception of her own recording of ABBA's "S.O.S.")

The movie knows how to have fun with this strange way of thinking and still make it seem human. Moodysson's work has been compared to Jean Renoir, that other great humanist, who said, "everyone has his reasons."

By the time Together reaches its final 20 minutes, all of the little storylines rush around trying to find a climax and resolution -- storytelling at its most artificial -- and everyone seems perfectly content at the end as they play soccer in the snow. Still, Moodysson manages to make us fall in love with all these people during the journey, so that somehow this formulaic ending works. It's even possible to believe that the whole film plays like chaos come to order.

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