November 2, 2001

Different Strokes

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Finally, a story we can relate to. Dorms, frats, co-ops, or Collegetown houses feature people from all walks of life, who have just as many idiosyncrasies as they do commonalities. We’re all familiar with the phenomenon of “hall-cest,” the late night debates over politically divisive matters, or the ongoing arguments over cleaning schedules. With this in mind, imagine these issues transplanted to a Swedish commune called “Together” in 1975.

In this provocative yet charming comedy, Director Lucas Moodyson presents a cast of characters that experience both laughter and tears before coming to the common realization that life is best enjoyed in the company of others. The film opens with a woman, Elisabeth, fleeing her abusive husband and joining her brother, Goran, at his commune. “Together” houses a married couple with one child, a lesbian mother, her angry ex-husband, and their son Tet, Goran and his free-love partner, and a homosexual man.

Elisabeth and her two children are quickly indoctrinated into this strange little society, in which meat, television, and Coca-Cola are forbidden “on principle,” and debates rage over issues such as the flagrant capitalism of Pippi Longstocking.

The children in the film, who offer the only voice of reason, serve as a vehicle for conveying the views of the director. Through the eyes of the children and the criticism of their parents’ lifestyle, Moodyson illustrates that the self-professed socialists have shaky foundations for their beliefs. As the children retaliate against the liberalism of their rebellious parents, by picketing for the “Right to Eat Meat,” the more extreme thinkers of the commune are driven away. The end of the film presents a group that forges new bonds based on the love and compassion that comes from unlikely relationships.

The final scene, in which all engage in a soccer game, illustrates the progression of the commune’s ideology towards a newfound utopia, which no longer distinguishes between age, gender, or sexuality.

To place Together within the context of American cinema, it is a blend between The Real World: Stockholm and The Big Chill. While the viewer is allowed an intimate glimpse into the lives of real people, careful editing of explicit scenes leaves certain aspects of the plot to the imagination.

“Certain,” however, is the operative word. From the opening scene, where you witness full male and female frontal nudity, it’s evident that you’re not watching an American film. But for the timid viewer, don’t let this deter you from viewing the film, as it’s an essential part of Together’s playullness.

While the fate of Elisabeth’s family initially seems to be the film’s focal point, the secondary figures receive equal character development. A feat for a film featuring a large cast, Together acquaints us with the quirks of each member of the commune.

In a poignant comparison, Goran likens the intentions of “Together” to porridge, in that individual pieces of oats come together to be “part of something bigger than themselves.” The film’s final epiphany is the simple, yet telling realization that being “together” means having each other.

Archived article by Gillian Klempner