Dir: Lukas Moodysson. Sweden-Italy. 2000. 106 mins.
Prod co: Memfis Film AB. Co-prod: Zentropa Entertainments, Keyfilms (It). Int’l sales: Trust Film Sales (45) 36 868 788. Prod: Lars Jonsson. Scr: Moodysson. DoP: Ulf Brantas. Prod des: Carl Johan De Geer. Ed: Michal Leszczylowski, Fredrik Abrahamsen. Main cast: Lisa Lindgren, Michael Nyqvist (Rolf), Gustav Hammarsten (Goran), Anja Lundqvist (Lena), Jessica Liedberg (Anna), Ola Norell (Lasse).
Few Swedish films break out of the Scandinavian market; FuckingAmal (renamed Show Me Love in English-language territories) was one notable exception last year. Director Lukas Moodysson has not let the pressure get to him. His second film, Together, is funny, assured and, at times, almost painfully moving. The domestic box office has been overwhelmingly positive - it is one of the highest grossing Swedish films in 2000 with a gross of nearly $4m, and the international reaction at Venice this year suggested that Together will have no difficulty repeating the success of Amal abroad.
In mid-1970s Stockholm, a group of young people live in a commune they have christened Tillsammans (“Together”). Dogmas sprout like turnips: free love, socialist revolution, washing-up rotas. A son is christened Tet, after a Vietcong offensive, television is banned, and Pippi Longstocking is branded ‘materialistic’. When Elisabeth (Lindgren), the suburban sister of one of the members, is beaten up by her drunken husband, her brother invites her to move in. Her two children are experiencing their own kind of alienation and loss, and Moodysson uses them (just as he used the bored adolescent girls of Amal) to expose the lies that are being told around them - whether in the commune itself or in the eminently respectable, curtain-twitching family house across the road.
Moodysson has a number of talents, not the least of which is to coax natural performances out of his actors without pushing the improvisation button too insistently. If his directing style is Mike Leigh Lite, the camerawork and lighting are Dogme 95 Lite - a bit grainy, a bit jostly, but not enough to make the viewer seasick. Clothes, camper vans and even metaphors (‘sometimes life seems like a big bowl of porridge’) are all deliciously spot-on.
Hiding not far behind the film’s study of the way people are trapped by ideologies and roasted by feelings is a pure romantic comedy with a tight structure that Hollywood or Shakespeare would be proud of. Though the obtrusive use of Abba’s hit SOS from beginning to end is a sop to the foreign market (no self-respecting Swedish communard would have been seen dead listening to the group in 1975), the repetition neatly marks the considerable emotional ground this film has covered, and the sweetness of its resolution.