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Together

(Lukas Moodysson, Sweden/Switzerland/Italy, 2000)


 


Any film that begins with a spontaneous party prompted by the news of General Franco's death is bound to be charming. Set in a Swedish communal home in 1975, Lukas Moodysson's Together is an affectionate portrait of the radical lifestyles of the era.

Facile jokes about political activism, sexual liberation and hippie-greenies have become standard in many examples of film or television comedy these days. Moodysson knows his targets better than most who posture with this form of satire. But he does not allow a contemporary audience to imagine it is superior to, or any more enlightened than, the loveably silly characters that he draws.

As he showed in his debut, Show Me Love (1998), Moodysson is a warm humanist with a special place in his heart for those who challenge social convention, however blindly or fallibly. Everyone in Together is caught awkwardly between old and new moral codes.

Goran (Gustaf Hammarsten) is a pacifist who agrees to an open relationship with Lena (Anja Lundqvist). But he still finds it hard to bear the sound of Lena's orgasms with Erik (Olle Sarri) in the next room. As for Erik, he is an angry, young militant whose dream is to join the Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang – although in a strange act of political squeamishness, the English subtitles suppress every mention of this.

There are many other characters who pass through the house – including children, teenagers, an abused housewife and animals. Fluidity of sexual preference is a favourite Moodysson theme, and he regards those who merely flirt with thrilling possibilities with the same respect as those who fully embrace new identities.

Together suffers in comparison with Italian for Beginners (2000). It has a similarly broad and compassionate view of human foibles, but a far less rigorous construction. Indeed, Moodysson makes a virtue of his messy mise en scène and entangled story lines, regularly placing half a dozen characters in a scene and letting a frantic, '60s-style zoom lens sort out the chaos as best it can.

The film touches on moments of pain, rejection and violence, but always looks for acceptable compromises and optimistic resolutions. In most movies, scenes where characters bond through a frolic (playing sport in the backyard or racing through a park) look clumsy and contrived. In Together, the frolic is a utopian image of a better way of life.

© Adrian Martin June 2002


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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