Think a movie about 1970s Scandinavian misfits has nothing to do with our current crisis? Wrong, says Ty Burr
Lisa Lindgren, Michael Nyqvist
Credit: Together: IFC Films

A great alternative to slick Hollywood films

I was in the mood for a movie this past weekend. Nothing fancy, just a regular catch-it-in-the-neighborhood-with-the-wife experience. I couldn’t bring myself to partake of any of the big Hollywood films, though. Not even ”Serendipity,” and I’m a major John Cusack fan. Now, the events of the past month have affected everybody in different ways, in matters and attitudes profound and trivial. And this falls toward the trivial end of the scale, sure, but the simple fact is that the smug proficiency of the average studio product just sticks in my throat these days. I don’t know; I guess the only entertainment I can handle lately is stuff that doesn’t pretend to have all the answers.

We ended up seeing a movie called ”Together.” Yes, the Swedish one about a commune of hippies in 1975. Yes, the one that sounds like the cinematic equivalent of a bowl of muesli and gravel topped with ox yogurt. Yes, a movie you’ll only find on video if you live outside a major urban area. And yes, it turned out to be exactly the movie we needed to see on a Saturday in October, hours before the bombs started falling in Afghanistan.

”Together,” you see, is a comedy about the folly of those who put ideas before people. When the film starts, the suburban commune called Together is a near-perfect parody of crunchy post-’60s earnestness. There’s the mother-earth couple who set the tone, the brand new lesbian who doesn’t bother to wear pants (or underwear) to the table, the studly Maoist, the woman who wants her wimpy boyfriend to sleep around (but only because she wants to get into the studly Maoist’s bed). There’s even a little kid named Tet. As in ”Offensive.” And soon there are more: The bourgeois sister of one of the housemates leaves her abusive husband and lands on the doorstep of the commune, two kids and all.

Director Lukas Moodysson has great fun inviting us to laugh at all these happy, committed fools — it’s through the mortified eyes of 12-year-old Eva (Emma Samuelsson) that we primarily see the action unfold — but then he does something startling. He gets us to like them.

Some of them, anyway; the ones that are willing to cut their fellow humans a break. The ones that can’t tell life from doctrine? They have snits and they move out. The wordless expressions on the faces of the mother-earth couple are priceless when they see a used TV dragged into the living room; they’re outta there by the next scene. The studly Maoist can’t handle all the frivolousness — he’s particularly incensed that Eva isn’t interested in politics and would rather listen to ABBA — and goes off to find the revolution. The free-love acolyte gets tossed out on her ear by the wimp boyfriend.

Who’s left? The losers, the ones that can’t get it together to actualize themselves into perfection. And they’re shocked to discover how messily happy they are together. The final scenes of ”Together” cast a feelgood glow that’ll strike you either as a sentimental sell-out or exactly right, depending on your own level of cynicism. But there’s no denying that the film’s essential, good-natured struggle — between those with inflexible ideas about how we all should live versus those who just want to live and let live — has real-world resonances right now.

In the movie, the tolerant vanquish the intolerant. Watching it gives you the hope, however fleeting, that life might imitate art.

Together (Movie - 2001)
  • Movie
  • 106 minutes