Screenplay : Lukas Moodyson
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 2001
Stars : Lisa Lindgren (Elisabeth), Michael Nyqvist (Rolf), Gustav Hammarsten (Göran), Anja Lundkvist (Lena), Jessica Liedberg (Anna), Ola Norell (Lasse), Shanti Roney (Klas), Sam Kessel (Stefan), Emma Samuelsson (Eva)
Lukas Moodyson's Together (Tillsammans) takes place in a hippie commune in Stockholm in 1975. A small group of people whose ideologies of life fall outside of the mainstream, yet are in no way absolutely congruous with each other, have formed their own family in large, rambling suburban house. Although all "hippies" in the most general sense, these characters are not reducible to one political or ideological statement, and the film wisely and compassionately points out that their leftist, free-love lifestyle can be just as personally damaging as the worst of the repressive bourgeois they are reacting against.
In fact, the only thing Moodyson seems to be against in Together is repression and dishonesty. While he is certainly sympathetic to his characters, this is not a film in which any one way of life is necessarily celebrated to the detriment of others. Rather, Moodyson has fashioned an extremely likable dramedy whose main point is that any lifestyle, taken to rigid extremes, becomes oppressive.
The central storyline involves a brother and sister. Göran (Gustav Hammarsten), the founder of the commune (which is called "Together") is a thoroughly giving and utterly decent humanist. When his sister, Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren), an abused and unhappy housewife, finally leaves her alcoholic husband, Rolf (Michael Nyqvist), Göran agrees to let her and her two children, 10-year-old Stefan (Sam Kessel) and 13-year old Eva (Emma Samuelsson), come to live in the commune.
Much of the plot simply follows the day-to-day living of the characters, as Elisabeth and her children adjust to life in the commune. While at first they are not sure how they will fit in, they soon find that it is a family like any other, completely with love, affection, petty squabbles, and repressed feelings that are just waiting to explode. Elisabeth quickly becomes good friends with Anna (Jessica Liedberg), an outspoken woman who has recently decided that she is a lesbian, although her ex-husband, Lasse (Ola Norell), who also lives in the house, thinks it is for political reasons.
Sexual orientation and sexual practices figures heavily into Together, and some of the points Moodyson makes are surprisingly conventional. For instance, a running subplot involves Göran's relationship with his girlfriend, Lena (Anja Lundkvist). In true free-love fashion, they have agreed to have an "open" relationship, in which they profess love for each other, but are free to engage sexually with anyone they choose. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that this relationship is benefiting the sexually adventurous Lena much more than the reserved Göran, and Moodyson questions certain assumptions about the links (or lack thereof) between sex and love, and whether they can ever be fully separated.
One of the most telling characters is Erik (Olle Sarri), who is the most politically committed of the group. Thus, ideologically, he is the purest. While many of the characters in Together have embraced the hippie lifestyle for reasons that are not always related to selfless political ideology, Erik is an adamant believer in Marxism and the hope that a socialist revolution will truly make the world a place of equality. Yet, his political fervor is so intense and his ideological position so unwavering that it cuts him off from simple human relationships. Ironically, Erik's incessant and unrelenting push to make the world a place of equality and peace has isolated him from even those who might share his politics.
In the end, Together is about human relationships and how no two are alike; it is telling that the film is populated with independent free thinkers who eventually realize that no one can stand alone. Moodyson's screenplay deftly weaves together multiple subplots, allowing many of them to contrast against others while reflecting and refracting the film's basic thematic emphasis on how people interact. Thus, Göran's growing disillusionment with Lena is contrasted with Elisabeth and Rolf, her estranged husband who, after hitting rock bottom, pulls his life together and comes back in reconciliation. Or, Anna's politically professed lesbianism is contrasted with Klas (Shanti Roney), a gay man who has his sights set on convincing Lasse that he is gay, as well.
Although it has its share of tense moments, Together is ultimately an uplifting experience that makes good on its inclusive title. Not everything turns out happily, for that would ring patently false. There is no way Moodyson could set in motion so many subplots and expect all of them to be gracefully resolved in the end. Rather, he ends the film on a note of reconciliation and togetherness, yet leaves it just open-ended enough to reflect the vagueness of real life. It is a beautiful end to a film that has succeeded grandly in balancing the comedy and tragedy of being human, regardless of one's political ideology.
Copyright © 2001 James Kendrick