At the Movies 2016: The Commune (Kollektivet)

The CommuneThe Commune (Kollektivet)
Denmark 2016
Written by Tobias Lindholm & Thomas Vinterberg
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Watched on 23.04.2016

“Kollektivet” is the latest movie from “Festen” and “Jagten”-director Thomas Vinterberg, and while not quite reaching their level, it nevertheless was an entertaining, occasionally hilarious, but at times also quite tragic look at life in a Danish commune in the 70s, but even more so, a relationship in crisis.

Which already brings me to my major criticism, because even though the communal life definitely made said crisis all the more difficult for Anna to bear (since her partner’s new spouse comes to live with them), ultimately, the movie seemed to be more about this relationship crisis and Anna’s struggle, than about the titular Commune itself. Now, everything about that was pretty good, and featured a couple of gripping, emotional scenes. But ultimately, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, and apart from a couple of specifics, their struggle didn’t really seem to be that much different from those which regular couples – married or otherwise –face in a similar situation. “The Commune” also was very much focused on Anna, Erik and Emma, with some consideration also given to Freya and her first love. The rest of the cast, however, proves to be little more than decoration. Which to me, felt a little bit like a wasted opportunity. Also, a particular dramatic moment near the end of the movie seemed a little forced to me, like a climactic scene that of course had to happen at this point of the story, but – even though plausible – feels like a little bit of a stretch as something that would actually happen like that in real life. It felt just a little too convenient. I also thought that the middle part dragged along just a little bit. And even though one might argue that Erik just was supposed to play the asshole-character of the ensemble, a little elaboration on why he’s so drawn to this young woman would have been nice.

Where “The Commune” shines, first and foremost, is the acting. In Trine Dyrholm and Ulrich Thomsen, it features two “Festen”-alumni in the leading roles, and even though it took a while for me to get used to seeing them as a couple (since I only had seen “Festen”, where they played brother and sister, a couple of weeks ago for the first time in my life), they – again – proved to be the heart and soul of the movie, giving very naturalistic and emotive performances. I was a little less taken with Helene Reingaard Neumann, who plays Emma, but that might have been more down to her role (which felt a little clichéd), than her performance itself. From the rest of the cast, however, the main standout for me was Julie Agnete Vang as Mona. Also, having missed all that commune-hype (since I was “only” born in 1980), it was quite interesting to get a glimpse into what ultimately seemed like a big residential community – even though, as said before, I very much wold have like to see more about that. I also loved how Vinterberg once again managed to start off rather light, with many amusing scenes, only to get darker and darker, ultimately ending on quite a sad and tragic note. There also were a couple of great moments that really stood out for me, like the weird bid of someone having sex while Anna – who who works as a newscaster – can be seen on TV, or the devastating scene where Anna finally breaks down, offering a heartfelt plea to Anna. There are a couple of similarly strong moments, but those stuck with me the most. I also really loved the dialogue, as well as the huge variety of characters that ultimately finds a home in this commune. Finally, I have to point out that while I, personally, didn’t find the movie especially tear-inducing, quite a few sobs could be heard at the end of the movie. Thus, I’m certain that this movie will speak more to others (maybe people slightly older, with more life experience?) than it did to me. Overall, it was good enough for me to recommend it to anyone who loved Thomas Vinterbergs previous work, or who’s interested either in the topic or in Danish cinema – but don’t expect him to top his previous, aforementioned work.


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