When Erik’s (Ulrich Thomsen) father dies and leaves him a large house in a suburb of Copenhagen, his wife Anna (Trine Dyrholm) quickly convinces him that they should move into the house. Gathering friends to move in with them, in order to make the house more affordable, quickly turns the house into a small commune, but when Erik begins an affair with the much younger Emma (Helene Reingaard Neumann), tensions arise in the shared space.
Based on director Thomas Vinterberg’s play of the same name – which in turn was inspired by Vinterberg’s early life in a commune – The Commune is less a film about sharing a house with friends and negotiating those relationships, and more about the dissolution of a marriage when home is not as private as it once was.
The cast is made up of Ulrich Thomsen, Fares Fares, Trine Dyrholm, Julie Agnete Vang, Helene Reingaard Neumann, Lars Ranthe and Martha Sofie Wallstrøm Hansen. Each of the cast do well with their roles, but it is Trine Dyrholm as Anna who really steals the show, with her tense, brittle and brave performance as a woman trying to live up to the ideals she spouts, when things come right to her front door.
Screenwriters Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm try to exmine life in a home that is made up of chosen family and not just those related by blood, but the story quickly turns to familiar ground of martial strife. There is the added dimension of this break up playing out in a more public way than we have seen before, but once the dynamic of the commune is introduced in the film, it is obvious that something is going to happen to shatter this idyll and bring tension into the film. It’s just a shame that this is such a familiar trope.
As director, Thomas Vinterberg does well with the first act of the film, making the commune and its members seem warm and engaging, with their shared history evident, if not always explored on screen. It is as the film begins its descent into examining the breakdown of a marriage that it begins to falter, with the pacing often slowing to a crawl before speeding up again, and the storyline of Erik and Anna’s teenage daughter’s first love affair feeling tacked on for no apparent reason. There is plenty to admire in The Commune, however – not least the great soundtrack – it’s just a shame the film feels so very familiar.
In all, The Commune could have been a strong examination of relationships in close quarters, but instead looks at the end of a marriage; a scenario we have seen played out on screen many times before. The performances are strong, but these are let down by a familiar story and some messy pacing.