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Together (Swedish: Tillsammans) is a 2000 comedy/drama film. It is Swedish director Lukas Moodysson's second full length film. Set in a Stockholm commune called "Tillsammans" (Swedish for "Together") in 1975, it is a satirical view of socialist values and a bittersweet comedy. Together is set in one of the communes that sprang up around Stockholm in the 1970s. Vaguely led by the sweet-natured Göran, who will do anything to avoid a conflict, the group spend their time arguing about left-wing politics and other questions such as whether doing the dishes is bourgeois. The commune's dynamics are significantly shaken when Göran's sister leaves her violent husband Rolf and moves in with her two children, Eva and Stefan. Self-declared lesbian Anna lives in the commune with her ex-husband Lasse and their son Tet (named after the Tet offensive) who befriends Stefan playing games such as "torture the Pinochet victim" where, in the spirit of equality, they take turns at being Pinochet.
What I do remember is that the movie takes place in 1975 Stockholm at a large house full of free-loving Communists -- kind of like The Real World, if Karl Marx and Hugh Hefner shared a flat with an MTV feed. The leader of the group is Göran (Gustav Hammertoe), a gentle fellow with a great beard, whose sister, Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren), escapes her abusive lout of a husband, Rolf (Michael Nyqvist) by moving with her two kids into Göran's clan. This, of course, sets in motion a series of changes for everyone in the house.
The moviegoer is also in for a challenge. There are so many changes, along with so many characters, that it's hard to keep up. I entirely forgot about two characters before they were reintroduced midway through the film. Dramas with large ensemble casts are difficult to maintain, and Together is a great example of why that happens.
To me the model of a great ensemble drama is Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights, because it took the time and the effort to let us know a bit about each and every character. It also had technical flair and a plot that dug into the characters' hubris and fragile egos. Writer/director Lukas Moodysson doesn't let us know the characters because it's in such a damned hurry. We get no sense of a group dynamic, no sense of character structure. It's the cinematic equivalent of a long flipbook.
Very rarely in Together do we get an idea of the emotions behind the characters. At one point, Göran suddenly and violently throws out his promiscuous girlfriend, Lena (played with misguided, slutty conviction by Anja Lundkvist). It's easily the movie's most passionate moment. We've seen Lena's cavalier treatment of Göran and we understand his action, though he says their relationship is open. However, Moodysson never offers this kind of absorbing history for everyone else, so we're essentially stuck with empty gestures. When he tries to offer some sense of togetherness (no pun intended) like a soccer game or a crowded dinner table, there's little to hold on to because we feel like we don't know these people.
I would have been content just watching Rolf try to win back the confidence of his wife and kids; Rolf's struggle to gain redemption is fully believable and the sturdiest branch on the plot tree. So much goes on that it's not nearly as effective as it should be. The director is too busy looking at the repressed family next door, homosexual encounters, and the household's introduction to meat and television.
There are definitely some highlights sprinkled throughout, apart from the copious amount of nudity (both male and female). The relationship that Elisabeth's pubescent daughter (Emma Samuelsson) has with the boy next door (Henrik Lundström) hits all the awkward notes, as does Enqvist's painful attempts to get back in his family's good graces. The movie needs twenty more minutes, five fewer subplots, and a compass.
They show their pits... together.