Our Review

                Movie:   THE COMMUNE                

                           Rating: NR

                         Length: 1:51

              Release Date: May 19, 2017

Jeanne: Communal living in the 1970's seems so passe now, but at the time, it was all so shocking and titillating. It was particularly the rage in Scandinavia, as experienced by director Thomas Vinterberg, who himself lived in a commune from the age of 7 to 19. "The Commune", written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, sets out to examine both the advantages and pitfalls of this experimental way of life.

 

Left with his rather large family home following the death of his father, Erik (Ulrich Thomsen) and his wife, Anna (Trine Dyrholm), must decide what to do with the behemoth. Erik, who teaches architecture at the local university, favors selling, but Anna, who is a television newsperson, wants a change in her life, so she convinces Erik to open their house to others as a trial for community cohabitation.

 

Though Erik is adamantly opposed, he and Anna quickly assemble as mishmash of subjects who are willing to join them and their daughter, Freja (Martha Sofie Wallstrøm Hansen), in this unusual way of living. Whereas Anna cultivates her interests in her newfound "family", Erik looks elsewhere for joy and solace --- in the bed of one of his students, Emma (Helene Reingaard Neumann), who looks like a younger version of Anna. When Erik invites Emma to join their motley crew, Anna agrees at first, until her relationship with Erik begins to unravel.

 

The promise of delightful and possibly intriguing escapades amongst the cohabitants unfortunately devolves into a tawdry and unimaginative tale of infidelity and despair. Though Thomsen and Dyrholm are accomplished actors with many awards associated with their names, the screenplay is lacking in any real diversity and conflict, though Dyrhom did win Best Actress at the 2016 Berlinale for this performance. 

The promise of delightful and possibly intriguing escapades amongst the cohabitants unfortunately devolves into a tawdry and unimaginative tale of infidelity and despair. Though Thomsen and Dyrholm are accomplished actors with many awards associated with their names, the screenplay is lacking in any real diversity and conflict, though Dyrhom did win Best Actress at the 2016 Berlinale for this performance.

 

The cliched story of a college professor falling for one of his younger, more beautiful proteges has been so overdone, and regretfully better than what "The Commune" offers. And the fact that Anna, who initially appears in complete control, would so easily fall apart, fails on the plausibility chart.

 

I am totally irked by all of the participants' reactions, most notably Freja, the once-loving daughter. Vinterberg and Lindholm have seemingly tied up all of the loose ends without any real conflict. Turning Anna into a sad, pathetic boozer is a cheap copout, instead of either having her fight for her marriage/depart with dignity.

 

In the end, none of these characters elicit any interest or sympathy. Even the little boy, who reminds everyone that he is only going to live until the age of 9, falls short of endearment. "The Commune" teeters very close to being a waste of time.

 

Opinion: Don't Bother!

David: When I think of a movie about a commune, I imagine a living arrangement filled with interesting people with distinct personalities, individuals with whom you can identify, or at least like or loathe. Danish writer/director Thomas Vinterberg, in his film "The Commune", has created some spectacularly bland folks to populate his communal family. Upon being interviewed for membership and their ability to pay the rent, one of them, who is vilified during this process, sobs like a baby. It's neither affecting nor sympathetic.

 

So, instead of dynamic interactions among the members, Vinterberg has chosen to focus on an extramarital affair between the head of the "family", Erik (Ulrich Thomsen) --- he is also the inherited owner of the fabulous home in which they live --- and one of his students, Emma (Helene Reingaard Neumann). This results in the rather mild reaction of his wife, Anna (Trine Dyrholm), and a vote among the original commune members on whether or not to allow Emma to join them. 

 

The most vitriolic reaction to all this comes from Erik and Anna's 14-year-old daughter Freja (Martha Sofie Wallstrøm Hansen). She suggests that her mother should leave the commune to maintain harmony, and because she is confident her mother can do this, that is, survive without the family. Anna is a TV newscaster, or at least she was until she falters on air and must take a leave of absence.

 

The logistical problems with the writing in "The Commune" are numerous. First Erik caves far too easily for someone who has inherited his parents' home that would sell for a million krone --- a princely sum in Denmark, no doubt --- and he complains of having no money. At one point, he claims they can't even afford to heat the home. It is, however, the house he grew up in, so his rationale to stay there would be a communal situation where everybody pitches in their fair share.

 

But far more unlikely is Anna's response to Erik's affair. He not only confesses his infidelity, he blabs details of it, like bringing Emma into the house while the communal family is away. No doubt the wife of a cheating spouse would react far more vehemently. But Anna cozies up to Erik as if he needed comforting. It is only towards the end of the film that she reacts with anger and loathing.

 

We care not for any of these people except six-year-old Vilads (Sebastian Grønnegaard Milbrat),

the son of one of the couples who we learn has a heart condition. Vilads announces to everyone he meets that he will die before he is nine. This is only taken seriously when he collapses and is rushed to the emergency room.

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Let me repeat, we don't care a whit about Erik or Anna or Emma or Freja, the latter of whom is having a sexual affair herself with a local boy she encouraged. It is the 1970's and Denmark was known as a "progressive" place in those days. In fact, "The Commune" would easily garner an "R" rating by the MPAA on its nudity alone, but it is not rated.

 

A couple of notes about Vinterberg: he cast his real-life wife Helene as Emma, and he directed the Carey Mulligan vehicle "Far From The Madding Crowd" (2015), an excellent film. "The Commune", however, is not a particularly good movie.

 

Opinion:  Wait for DVD