Kollektivet (The Commune)
The key events of Thomas Vinterberg’s film Kollektivet (The Commune) can be rather easily predicted from the moment they’re set into motion. This makes it all the more remarkable that the film is still so thoroughly engaging. These events begin when architect Erik (Ulrich Thomsen) and his TV newsreader wife Anna (Trine Dyrholm) inherit a sprawling, though not ostentatious, house by the ocean, just north of Copenhagen. The heating bills alone would be ruinous, and so it’s quickly established that various friends should be invited to live with them, forming the titular commune. The way Anna proposes this idea is bright but brutal, and Dyrholm plays it with just the right amount of cheerful assertiveness.
As more and more people come to live in their charming commune, individual boundaries are breached before disappearing altogether. The personal becomes public, and the notion of privacy becomes a quizzical joke. The film is very funny, although it’s not really played for laughs. Erik’s fiery temper could easily become a monotonously repeated gag, but Thomsen gives the character a slightly hammy charm, which makes his explosions a totally acceptable part of his characterisation. Dyrholm is truly splendid as Anna, the one who unravels the most when communal life eventually takes its toll.
The film is set in the 1970s but its nostalgia is sharp, rather than rose-coloured. The two children who live in the commune have their own minor character arcs, and it feels as though the audience is sharing in their taciturn observations. The film is inspired by Vinterberg’s own childhood years spent in a commune, but the innocent ways in which a child might observe such free-spiritedness and optimism are neatly subverted. There are no cheap thrills or twists, and to experience them in such a film would feel dishonest. Kollektivet offers an endearing examination of just how quickly and easily paradise can be lost.
Kollektivet (The Commune) is released in selected cinemas on 29th April 2016.
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Watch the trailer for Kollektivet here: