Starring: Ulrich Thomsen, Trine Dyrholm, Fares Fares
In 1970s Denmark, liberal University professor Erik (Thomsen) inherits a huge house in Copenhagen, and after being persuaded by his equally liberal his wife Anna (Dyrholm) decides to invite various people that they know to live with them and form a commune. Everything seems to be going well within the house until Anna’s open-mindedness is put to the test when Erik’s mistress Emma (Helene Reingaard Neumann), one of his students, also comes to live in the commune.
After his first foray into mainstream English language cinema with Far from the Maddening Crowd, Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg has certainly returned to his roots with a comedy/ drama that does feel particularly Danish. It is certainly possible that this film is more pertinent to those that are Danish and familiar with the political and social climate of Denmark in the 1970s. Well, who knows if it is, but for the rest of us it is a film that certainly takes a bit of getting used to at first, in terms of understanding the ideologies of its characters, but once we do then The Commune emerges as an engaging drama with some quite simple, but therefore relatable and emotive themes at its narrative core.
Being a Scandinavian film, the humour is certainly a little strange, but there are certainly darkly comic moments to be found in both the slightly eccentric characteristics of the characters that reside in the commune and the moments when they interact together. This certainly makes all the characters engaging and the viewer feel that they are almost part of this bizarre and unconventional household.
However, Vinterberg never loses focus and ultimately the main focus of the narrative is the relationship between Erik and Anna and its eventual breakdown, and it is this very relatable story that makes The Commune such an ultimately engaging story. Vinterberg uses the slightly unusual narrative and even more unusual ideologies of its two main characters very effectively to depict what is a very simple theme at the narrative centre; the breakdown of a relationship and how each deal with it. Erik starts seeing someone else, and the couples supposed liberal views means that Erik’s mistress should be allowed to live them with. However it is the slightly unconventional setting of the narrative that ultimately emphasises the cracks and flaws in their relationship that have actually been there for a long, long time. How Anna then deals with this forms the key emotional backbone of the narrative and makes for compelling and often quite harrowing viewing.
As Erik and Anna, Ulrich Thomsen and Trine Dyrholm are excellent and manage to sum up in mere facial expression the internal emotional repression that both characters experience. The rest of the cast are also excellent, and many get their own unique subplots which add to emotional richness of the narrative, both in terms of emotional engagement and humour. We are also given an emotionally satisfying and tonally appropriate ending, as is to be expected from an experienced auteur like Vinterberg.
The Commune is certainly very different to any film that any of us will see this year, and though it is certainly a little rough around the edges, it contains enough interesting ideas and relatable themes to be an emotionally engaging drama.
Thomas Vinterberg leaves Thomas Hardy behind and goes back to Denmark, and the result is The Commune: a typically Danish drama with plenty of off-beat comedy and engaging dramatic themes at its core.