Sunday, 3 July 2016

REVIEW - THE COMMUNE (THOMAS VINTERBERG)


Thomas Vinterberg's latest cultural microcosm, another lesson in what we need to know about Danish society, is perhaps his least insightful. It might be one of his stylistic experiments, a grafting of the commercial qualities he has pursued in some less well-regarded features to the scrappy, wordy ensemble-piece concepts that have marked his most well-regarded; The Commune is neither the catastrophe nor the triumph that it might have been, then. In tone and intention alike, it's a simplistic undertaking, a casual look at life in a middle-class commune in 1970s Denmark. Drama is not avoided - indeed, it is crucial to the rather predictable plot and to the success of its application - but neither is gentle comedy; The Commune is at its most striking when it accents moments of the former with bursts of the latter, producing cheeky chuckles at supposedly inappropriate junctures. All very Danish, but such national idiosyncrasy is welcome in a film that seems to shun the suggestion of anything unique in all other regards. Vinterberg just sets off on a course that bears his artistic and thematic hallmarks, but never again nurtures them. The Commune thus lacks inspiration, and also energy, sidling through its narrative with little more than reliability - it's reliably solid work from an experienced filmmaker, but it's also reliably disinterested. And when melodrama reliably seeps into its scenario, there has been too little commitment toward establishing a sense of realism to mitigate its exaggerated effect, and the film sours into soap opera all too quickly. It's held up by some smart acting, and indeed never falls down completely, but is a mere microcosm itself, a miniature version of the mastery that Vinterberg is capable of producing at his best.