Personal review on the Danish film, The Commune

I was already prepared for the somewhat shocking perspective of how Nordic people view nudity and sex. After all, one can find porno at gas stations in Sweden and Denmark. Even families bathing in their birthday suits during midsummer are far from uncommon. However, I was a bit surprised at the depiction of attitudes toward open marriages and communal living in the Danish film, The Commune, based on the life of the film’s director, Thomas Vinterberg. I kept asking myself, can people really be that calm when discovering your man with another woman? Is consensus far more important than an individual’s true feelings? The film explores these questions in a somewhat unfulfilling way.

The story is about a seemingly happy couple with their teen daughter in 70s Copenhagen who decide to move back to an inherited and large family house. The wife, Anna, decides to open their home to a number of co-habitants to live in a commune, as she thinks it would be a fine way to shake the boredom off their marriage. Although the husband, Erik, is quite reluctant to do it, he relents at his wife’s urging. Unsurprisingly, Erik begins an affair that shatters the harmony in the commune and eventually with his own family.

Honestly, I had a profound sense of frustration watching the movie. I think it was because I didn’t fully understand the reactions and emotions of the characters, especially of Anna. Her complacent and deadpan temperament when discovering her husband’s affair was annoyingly passive. Even the daughter had a lack of anger or aggression that is very foreign to me as someone who is Asian-American and grew up in a Catholic home. I kept thinking, would this laissez-faire attitude be due to Danish culture or the sign of the times? I wasn’t quite sure. As the author based the book on his own personal experiences, it made me think this could be a reflection of the typical Danish personality. Stay detached, allow independence, yet respect consensus – a very Scandinavian concept indeed. See all about my review on the Swedish documentary, The Swedish Theory of Love, which goes into this concept with no holding back.

I wanted to understand more, but the movie didn’t dive deeper into the other characters, which went amiss. I think this film could have explored many more facets of communal living, but it only went so far. I have a number of questions to ask my Danish buddies when I see them next. See it for yourself, as it opens in Toronto May 19th!

OPENING FRIDAY, MAY 19, 2017 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto
Tickets and showtimes

View Trailer here.

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Categories: Swedish Culture

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