Not something you see with your roommates, Danish Director Thomas Vinterberg’s semi-autobiographical drama shows the best, and worst, of communal living.
Inheriting a house just that little bit too big for a nuclear family, accomplished couple Anna (Trine Dryholm), Erik (Ulrich Thomsen) and their daughter open it up to friends, acquaintances and a few new faces; crowding the dinner table and their lives. Signing off on the new arrangement, the trepidatious glare Erik’s lawyer gives him early on will not be lost on anyone who’s lived in a less than idyllic share-house.
Hosting a whole heap of colourful characters, the film centres primarily on the lives of the original three players, with The Commune rising and falling on their respective performances. Thomsen is superb as the doubting and soon not so likeable father, a role that could easily have been painted through callous malevolence or indifference but was instead driven by Thomsen aptly honing in on the characters’ multi-dimensional, poignantly cataclysmic suffering.
As good as he was, Dryholm was still the stand-out in an affecting, wide-ranging performance which did deft justice to her significant character arc. A surprising film in that very early on it takes you in the direction you’d less than expect it to go, The Commune nevertheless transgresses as it shifts into cyclically frustrating and recurring false-endings. Never quite deciding on what it wants to hang its emotional hook, Vinterberg jumps between various story strands and sub-plots never fully fleshed out that could easily have ended up on the cutting room floor, sacrificing the impact of the central, striking family figures for an inordinate focus on comparably unstimulating characters.
Consummate and memorable for the in every sense confronting dinner sequences and exchanges between numerous characters, including several emotionally raw encounters between its two leads, The Commune, if a fresh idea, regretfully didn’t have enough faith in its moving central narrative to sustain what could otherwise have been a significantly more complete and polished story.
The Commune is screening as part of the Sydney Film Festival on Tuesday June 14 – for tickets head to the Festival website