The Commune (2017)

Viewed May 20th


When a married couple in 1970s Denmark transforms their home into a commune, conflicts arise and are overcome.  

I doubt that director Thomas Vinterberg would agree with this statement, but I see his latest film as a political statement more than a dramatic or aesthetic one. Obviously a film called The Commune is going to address politics, but the overall vibe seems to direct the viewer to focus more on interpersonal dramas and subtle filmmaking choices rather than potential critiques or celebrations of left wing political experimentation. But it's that very maneuver that makes it so strongly political. 

This is a film that builds a world. The first thing we see is a man who turns out to be a real estate agent crossing a street, giving us a sense of a quiet residential milieu. He then enters the home--it's a large, sturdily built house designed for a traditional bourgeois family. Then the agent guides the home's new owners, our married couple along with their teenage daughter, through all the rooms, expanding the world. It doesn't take long for the couple to then open the house up for communal living and we are subsequently introduced to each of the commune's inhabitants via a series of interviews. As things proceed, every scene involves one character or another, some light events, some dark. But unlike say The Ice Storm or 20th Century Women, two other 1970s-realist ensemble pieces that came to mind as I was watching, nothing feels as though it was imagined for a movie or designed to "say something" about the politics of the time (or of our time). It all seems true to life, even the most tragic or dramatic of the events, in order to build the world. This true-to-life feeling, though, also limits the power of things. Problems come up, but they are resolved. Even the film's central conflict between the original married couple follows a certain uncannily accurate emotional logic. This is all due to performances and direction that strike one as exceedingly mature. I say all of this is ultimately more of a political statement than anything else, though, because by the end of the film, the main thing that's happened--the main thing that the viewer can sink their teeth into--is that it's built a real world. The main thing it's done is to prove that the communal living is not a fantasy, or an abstract idea for a movie, but real--a real world.