After finding success with his adaptation of Hardy’s Far From the Maddening Crowd, Thomas Vinterberg returns to his native language for a dramatic study into both isolation and community in which the relationships of the eponymous commune become platforms to discuss a myriad of themes including love, lust, legacy, social and personal intimacy, and, of course, betrayal.
The film takes place in 1970s Denmark and follows a group of friends, family, and lovers who come together for form the titular commune. At the centre of their band of misfits lies Anna, brilliantly rendered through a shattering, Silver Bear-winning performance by Trine Dyrholm. She gives her all as a married woman slowly descending headfirst into despair after allowing her husband to bring his new, younger lover into the fold. Through the depth of Anna’s character, Vinterberg carefully captures the complex wilderness of feelings that stretch between love and happiness.
If The Commune was entirely Anna’s story then perhaps the film would have fared better. It falls down almost entirely on the strength of her husband Erik’s character. Despite a committed performance by Ulrich Thomsen, the film is ultimately let down by poor writing. Erik gets away with murder at the expense of the feelings of two women and everyone else; that the film offers little to no insight as to why these two women would be fighting over this heartless, for want of a better word, arsehole in the first place is a fatal flaw that almost completely derails it.
The Commune is not among Vinterberg’s finest. At his best Vinterberg has kick-started an entire movement (Dogme 95 with Festen), revitalised Hardy, and provided even more evidence of Mads Mikkelsen’s brilliance in The Hunt. This, however, is little more than an intriguing if slight exploration into the intricacies of relationships.
CAST: Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Helene Reingaard Neumann, Martha Sofie Wallstrom Hansen, Lars Ranthe
DIRECTOR: Thomas Vinterberg
WRITERS: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm
SYNOPSIS: A commune comes under threat when the self-appointed patriarch brings his new partner into the picture.
The Commune was reviewed as part of One Room With A View’s coverage of the 66th Berlinale Film Festival, which ran 11-21 February 2016.