The Commune – Film Review – 2017
Love in its many forms is explored in The Commune, the latest character drama from director Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, the creative team behind The Hunt (2012). We see a parent’s love for a child as well as the intimacy of the bond shared by the members of an extended family. There’s young first love, and there’s the love of a couple married for fifteen years that seems to be fading. There’s new, exciting love that feels dangerous and alive, but may prove to be little more than an infatuation, an attraction to risk and the sense of vitality it brings. And there’s the love born of friendship and the camaraderie of shared life experiences.
Erik is a college professor in 1970’s Denmark who has recently inherited his family estate. As he tours the property with his wife and daughter, he discusses the price it might fetch on the open market with his realtor. He’s thinking of the possible nest egg that has fallen in his lap, giving no real thought to keeping the home in the family. His wife convinces him that he should take a risk for a change, and they could keep the home and its vast grounds if they formed an economic collective of some sort — a commune populated by friends with the skills and financial resources needed to maintain the property.
The Commune begins optimistically, championing the ideals that swept through global society in the late-1960’s and early-1970’s. But, the audience can look through the lens of history and knows the truth. We see snippets of newscasts in the background documenting the end of the Vietnam War. The Summer of Love has faded away, and something less idealistic, more cynical, is beginning to replace it.
These harsh new realities are reflected in the relationships between the characters. The affairs that were initially indulged and celebrated begin to take their toll on the inhabitants of the commune. Loyalties are tested, and relationships are damaged. One central character suffers a nervous breakdown as she discovers that her sense of self-worth can’t peacefully coexist with the bigamy of the commune.
The Commune offers a host of excellent performances. Martha Sofie Wallstrom Hansen is marvelous as Erik’s teen-aged daughter, holding her own opposite her talented adult counterparts. She expertly balances the naivete and joy of first love with the disillusionment of watching her parents’ marriage on the brink of collapse. Trine Dyrholm is the emotional center of the film as Anna, the local news anchor who first suggests the formation of the commune. The audience bears witness to her transformation as her brainchild morphs into something unexpectedly malignant. (If you find Dyrholm’s work intriguing, be sure to watch her on the superb Danish television show The Legacy which has just aired its third season.)
If you enjoy character-driven, foreign-language dramas, then The Commune is a film you don’t want to miss.
Magnolia Pictures will release The Commune in select theaters, on iTunes, Amazon Video and On Demand on Friday, May 19, 2017.