Danish director Thomas Vinterberg made his rep with 1998's The Celebration, in which a well-heeled family unravels in spectacular fashion. If The Commune is a sexier, more relaxed picture, Vinterberg, who lived in a Copenhagen commune for 12 years, remains concerned with the ways people de/construct family. (For an even more relaxed take on Scandinavian communes of the 1970s, Lukas Moodysson's Together is the film to beat.)
The experiment in group living begins during a visit to architecture professor Erik Moller's hometown, where wife Anna (Trine Dyrholm), a newscaster, falls in love with the spacious villa. Fourteen-year-old daughter Freja likes it, too, but they can't afford the upkeep, so Anna suggests they invite others to share the expenses. Erik (Ulrich Thomsen, Dyrholm's Celebration co-star) isn't wild about the idea, but Anna, the more dominant personality, proves persuasive, and three becomes nine, including delicate six-year-old Vilads.
Then 24-year-old architecture student Emma (Vinterberg's wife, Helene Reingaard Neumann) and her Brigitte Bardot headbands joins the collective and the focus shifts from communal ups and downs to the unmaking of a strong woman, except Anna's breakdown isn't private, it's public. Dyrholm gives a painfully vulnerable performance, which makes up for a few melodramatic moments towards the end, but that's on the overreaching filmmaker, not the actress, and Dyrholm steamrolls over those shortcomings.
The Commune opens at the Grand Illusion today, May 26.