Sweden (2000) Dir. Lukas Moodysson
When Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren) is struck by her husband Rolf (Michael Nyqvist) during an argument she takes their two children Eva (Emma Samuelsson) and Stefan (Sam Kessel) to live with her brother Goran (Gustaf Hammarsten) at the Leftist commune he resides at with his girlfriend Lena (Anja Lundkvist) and their political activist friends.
Set in 1975 this is a satirical look at the socialist politics of a bunch of Swedish hippies as well as an insightful character study of the family unit from controversial Swedish director Lukas Moodysson who, in his second feature length film, show an early disdain for the movie making rulebook that would blight some of his later, more unconventional works, the powerful Lilya 4 Ever excluded. The humour might be a too subtle and wry for mainstream viewers but discerning viewers will delight in the tongue-in-cheek deconstruction of the hippy ideals of the 70’s.
The residents of the already packed commune house Together also include born-again lesbian Anna (Jessica Liedberg), her former boyfriend Lasse (Ola Rapace) who is also the father of her son Tet (Axel Zuber), who is named after the Tet offensive during the Vietnam War (!), homosexual Klas (Shanti Roney), who is in love with Lasse, uptight couple Signe (Cecilia Frode) and Sigvard (Lars Frode) and intense activist Erik (Olle Sarri). Due to the lack of space the arrival of Elisabeth and her kids isn’t greeted with much enthusiasm but nice guy Goran is determined to make it work.
Anna takes a liking to Elisabeth and slowly turns her onto her feminist and socialist ways, but over time it is the so-called borgeouis and materialistic influence Elisabeth and her brood bring into the house – the kids with their toys, Elisabeth with her yearning for meat – that ushers in radical change. When Goran and Lasse buy a small black and white TV for the kids this upsets hardened lefties Signe and Sigvard who leave in disgust, while Erik throws a wobbly when Eva admits to having no interest in politics – despite only being 14!
Meanwhile Rolf is trying to get his act together by quitting the booze but makes a huge mess of a night out with the children when he ends up in jail for threatening the staff of a Chinese restaurant for stealing his wallet, leaving the kids outside in the street alone. He does however make a friend in the form of lonely divorcee Birger (Sten Ljunggren), who deliberately sabotages his plumbing so he can call out Rolf to talk to.
But, the most fascinating relationship of the whole film belongs to bespectacled misfit Eva and equally shunned Fredrik (Henrik Lundström), the son of curtain twitching next door neighbours Margit (Thérèse Brunnander) and Ragnar (Claes Hartelius). They bond over having the same optical prescription with Eva immediately smitten with her portly potential suitor, until a tipsy Lena gets in on the act and tries to seduce Fredrik by flashing her boobs at him, instantly winning him over.
Much of the development of the friendship of Eva and Fredrik is tacit and implicit yet utterly compelling, thanks to the natural and nuanced performances of the two young actors, especially Emma Samuelsson, who sadly never acted again but was a stunt double on Lilya 4 Ever. Fredrik’s homelife isn’t too sweet – his parents raise him with a strict hand, taking out the frustrations of their loveless marriage on him.
Dad Ragnar spies on the neighbours with binoculars and is disgusted with their liberated antics but is compelled to go to his workshed – a euphemism for…well I sure you can guess. The hypocrisy of this isn’t lost on young Fredrik but it takes Eva and the messy seduction by Lena to wake the kid up to take a stand.
The humour as stated before is very subtle, born often out of the shameless antics of the housemates as a result of their admirable if misguided idealism. After a mammoth sex session, Lena upsets Erik by not wanting to talk politics afterwards (as most women presumably like to in his mind) so she retreats to boyfriend Goran’s bed where she proceeds to tell him about the first ever orgasm she had with Erik! Goran is naturally gutted but politely congratulates her anyway! A real keeper if ever there was one, eh fellas?
Lukas Moodysson clearly had a lot to get off his chest and his does so in savage fashion, the natural, cinema vérité style adding to that bite. However the clumsy zoom in shots become a distraction and creates a sadly amateur impression to what is a much more assured piece of filmmaking. Aside from the believable performances the actually look of the film is convincingly from the 1970’s, leading anyone not aware that they were watching a documentary from this period and not a staged film – although the presence of Michael “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” Nyqvist and Ola “Wallander” (and hubby to Noomi) Rapace does give the game away somewhat.
Together is an interesting film that won’t break away too far from the arthouse milieu despite it addressing fairly universal themes. It may seem plotless but plenty is going on and there is enough material present that relates to at least one stage in the viewer’s life. A nice understated oddity of a film.