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The Commune


You choose your family.

Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration was one of the most impressive movies to emerge from the Danish phenomenon known as the Dogma manifesto. His latest, The Commune, loosely inspired by his own experiences as a child, is, for me, his finest work since then.

Poster for the 1970s-set Danish drama The CommuneSet in the 1970s, The Commune begins with architect Erik, his tv news presenter wife Anna and their teenage daughter Freja visiting the rambling family home left to Erik by his late father. While Erik would like to sell it, Anna sees a way both to make use of the extra space and to revitalize a marriage she confesses she’s just a little bored with: they can invite some friends to move in, share the rent and help them widen the horizons of their lives a little. This they do, and things work out wonderfully for a while – but then things become more complicated…

Though there may not be too many surprises in terms of narrative, one very welcome aspect of this eminently enjoyable movie is that Vinterberg resists the temptation to dismiss the 70s commune experiment as naive, misguided or doomed to failure: while it may not have worked out perfectly for all who tried it, many, he suggests, found it rewardingly supportive and worthwhile.

Indeed, for the most part, the mood is kept engagingly light, with enough comic moments to elicit frequent laughter. And even when things take a turn into a darker consideration of the tensions between freedom, self-determination and shared responsibility – between, in other words, the needs of oneself, those of other individuals and those of the group – the film never once feels like it has an agenda to push.

Much of the credit here must go to the performances; even though we learn little about most members of the commune, their characters are deftly drawn, while Trine Dyrholm as Anna and Ulrich Thomsen as Erik are excellent. If Dyrholm has the more dramatically complex role to play (winning Best Actess at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance), Thomsen provides a supremely subtle (not to mention frequently very funny) study of a man apparently trapped in a state of almost constant, quiet and barely concealed confusion. Vinterberg, on the other hand, seems to have found in this material a renewed clarity of vision and purpose.

– Geoff Andrew, Sight & Sound

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