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[whitespace] Michael Nyqvist, Lisa Lindgren
Together, Apart: Rolf (Michael Nyqvist) and Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren) have a different take on marriage.

The Fall of Commune-ism

Free love is over, even for the Swedes

By Richard von Busack

IT MAY SEEM too much like MTV's "Real World" to believe, but the continually engrossing Together does have a real smell of the old days. Unfortunately, if you're a veteran of the time, you might leave disappointed and not be sure why.

Director Lukas Moodysson sets the tale in Stockholm in 1975. At that point, young rebels began to realize that political revolution wasn't likely; they sank into themselves and turned against friends; relationships started to get fractious.

Runaway wife Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren) is fascinated by the self-styled new creatures who inhabit the commune Tillsamanns (Together). Unlike her brooding, hard-drinking husband, they spill their guts (and their genitals; they take an optional view on the matter of wearing of pants). She's charmed, but her children (Sam Kessel, Emma Samuelsson) are disgusted with the lack of space and quiet.

Moodysson's cinema vérité technique resembles the low-fi documentaries of the '70s: the portable camera gives Together a sense of experimentation which fits the era perfectly. When we see those items that really define the difference between our time and their time--the political posters, the telephone hand-painted with twining flowers--we see them out of the corner of our eye.

Together stirs up mixed emotions about the past, emotions that ordinarily sleep untroubled during the usual '70s nostalgia movies. The film's wounding edge is felt through the most conflicted of all the characters: Lena (Anja Lundkvist), a woman exploring the various men in the house. Lena goes from childish to out of control, drunkenly flirting with a 14-year-old boy. She's naive enough to expect that her nominal boyfriend Göran (Gustaf Hammarsten) will be happy for her that she finally had her first orgasm--with someone else. I wish Moodysson had suggested that Göran, who owns the commune's house, might have helped cause Lena's restlessness. He is more teddy bear than man, with the classic sexlessness of the too-nice guy.

Considering the director's failure to get in deeper with the characters, it's just as well that Together is, for the most part, a comedy. Göran, looking for a good way to describe the harmony that the communards are aiming for, uses the example of a bowl of oatmeal: every individual flake joining into a warm glutinous mass. The kids like to play Chilean Secret Police ("I want to be Pinochet!"); they form a picket line in the kitchen to demand meat for lunch. The kids' countercountercultural streak is reflected in the promotional glossary; there, the filmmakers define the political terms of the day to younger critics. I don't know if Moodysson wrote this glossary or just approved of it, but its quips catalyzed what was nagging me about Together. Living in Sweden, with its womb-to-tomb security, it might be easy to believe that history ends in the suburbs. Moodysson's political patness flaws this engrossing film; smugness leaks out of this movie like radon out of a basement, and the picture ends on notes as subtle as the moral lesson in Jerry Springer's Final Thoughts.

Together (R; 106 min.), written and directed by Lukas Moodysson and starring Lisa Lindgren, Emma Samuelsson, Sam Kessel, Gustaf Hammarsten and Anja Lundkvist, opens Friday at Camera 3 in San Jose.

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From the September 13-19, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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