Together (2001)

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 08/20/01 06:52:59

"Waning 60's radicalism ushers in the age of Abba"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

A group of twenty-somethings, out to change the world through their radial leftist views, share a big house in a respectable yet hopelessly bourgeois suburban neighborhood. It's 1975, in Sweden and I wondered how long it would take for an Abba song to come into the picture. About 10 minutes. With 18 people under one roof, there is no end to number of stories we can follow. While everyone has their own sub-story, they are mostly about where they stand in relation the leftist communal lifestyle. Some are more hardline than others, some, like Elisabeth (Lisa Lindgren), are just camping out after leaving her alcoholic and abusive husband.

The story is about transition. Everyone's life is in flux and as they constantly question their own politics, they can't help but be swept along by time to adapt to a world that is not an "experiment".

When I was growing up, we had this book called Show Me, made in Sweden in the 70's that was a graphic photo-essay designed for sex education. The enlightened social attitudes of the Swedes are evident in this film where sex and sexuality are given a healthy outlet. On of my favorite sub-stories is the Lena, Klas and Lasse triangle. Lena recently divorced Lasse because she claims she is a lesbian. She is accused of being a lesbian for purely political reasons. Klas has the hots for Lasse and is always trying to get him to bed. While Lasse has no problem with the attention he receives from Lasse, he is not interested in having a male sexual partner. Klas doesn't give up and suggest to Lasse that he's just closed minded and perhaps afraid that it would be just as nice with a man. Lasse finally relents and when Lena decides she is no longer a lesbian and wants Lasse back, she is in for a big surprise.

Lena and Elisabeth become friends early on. Elisabeth teaches Lena how to use makeup and wear skirts and Lena encourages Elisabeth to grow her arm pit hair and teaches her about patriarchal domination, igniting a little fire of resistance under Elisabeth's ass.

Elisabeth's children act as the voice of reason. They are caught in the middle of the chaos and at one point , Eva, the teenage daughter says "grown ups are idiots". Night after night they are kept up by drinking, loud music and inane ramblings of adults who seem to have no idea who they are or what they are doing. While the communards feel pushed around by a system out of their control, they forgot that they are having a much more direct impact on the lives of the Eva, Stefan and Lasse's son Tet (named for the Tet Offensive).

They find a way to cope with the embarrassment of their parents and hopelessly unfashionable clothes. Eva likes to hide out in the van listening to Abba and eventually makes friends with the son of the prudish neighbors. Eva's younger brother Stefan (Sam Kessel) is not as passive as his sister and fights to include his father in his life.

The children learn well though and after begging for a little meat in the vegetarian house and being refused for the last time, they stage a protest at dinner. Even if their ideals are contrary to the mission of the house, their methods win over the overseers of the house and they are given money to buy hot dogs.

The audience laughed knowingly at the jokes about leftism and radicalism. While we may recognize ourselves as heading towards the bourgeois banality talked about in Together, we are still trying to maintain some integrity to our idealism.

The group portrayed in Together are the spiritual forebears of the idealists of my own generation and as second generation social progressives, we can laugh at the dialectic between self and politics, reality and ideality. Not that we have it any more figured out. Together is frank and knowing, sexually explicit and ultimately, a heartwarming (alternative) family movie.

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