dir. Lukas Moodysson
Opens Fri Sept 21 at Guild 45th.
Together begins on November 20, 1975, the great day Spanish dictator and generalissimo of Spain's armed forces Francisco Franco died. His death is announced on the radio, and a man with a thick beard (Gustaf Hammarsten) awakes the sleeping residents of the home to share the good news. Everyone, adults and children, spills into the small living room to dance and sing to the death of the terrible dictator. This is a commune called Tillsamanns (Together), which is made up of positive hippies: not psychedelic rock hippies, or drug hippies, but hippies who are sensitive to global events and are part of the upper- and educated-class. Some of them are writers, artists, medical students; others have well-to-do parents; and they all live unhappily in a wood-warm house that's big but crowded.
The next important moment in the film is a domestic incident that takes place in a working-class apartment. The husband is a thin and wasted alcoholic (Micheal Nyqvist), and the wife (Lisa Lindgren) is a healthy woman (healthy in the farm sense of the word and not the modern, urban sense). They have two children: an unhappy boy (Sam Kessel, who is roughly the age the director, Lukas Moodysson, would have been in 1975) and a geeky girl (Emma Samuelsson). If the man of the house weren't abusive, this family would form a perfect unit, in a perfect apartment building, in a perfect city (Stockholm), that is the center of a perfect society (Sweden). But their marriage is on the rocks. The healthy wife has just been beaten by her drunken husband, and is now preparing to leave the mess of a man. Moments later, her brother--the bearded hippie who celebrated the death of Franco at the start of the film--picks her and her kids up in his VW van, and takes them to the commune.
At this point, the primary spaces that will organize the visual and narrative content of Together (the cold, standardized apartment/the warm, earthy home) are clearly established. There is, however, one other space: the home across the street from the commune, which functions as the repressed space of the petty bourgeoisie. The director has little sympathy for this space; it's inhabited by an ugly housewife (which in Sweden is a rarity) and a bored husband, who, when catching kitchen-glimpses of the dancing flower girls across the street, tells his ugly wife that he is going down to the basement to do some carpentry. And while she is knitting upstairs to the banging of his hammer, he, with his free hand, is masturbating to a photo in a well-worn porn magazine. It is a sick rhythm in a sick home.
The purpose of Together is to form a sound mid-space between the conservative working-class space and the freethinking educated-class space. The hippies are well read, eat healthy food, drink dark wines, and are anti-bourgeoisie: No one is married, sex is free, money is shared. But this small utopia is falling apart. The hippies are constantly bickering about little things, and are not at all pleased with the square folks (abused wife and her normal children), who are taking up precious space in the already tight household. And this sheer lack of physical space amplifies, for the hippies, the consumerist, working-class habits of their square visitors: They listen to pop music, watch TV, eat junk food, are xenophobic, and have no idea what the Tet offensive was.
The movie works, shot by shot, to blend the two worlds so that at the end of the feature we arrive at a perfect society. And this is what makes Together great. Aside from the fact that it's a fine work of film narration--with the only flaw being the director's rather vicious representation of the petty bourgeoisie--the film never slips into nostalgia because it is not a remembrance of things past (the fading '70s and the decline of the hippie movement). Nor is it a comedy that's out to mock hippie naiveté for cheap laughs. The movie is about the process and mechanisms that have made the capitalist-socialist state of Sweden the most perfect society in the world.