FFF 2017 Day 9–The Commune

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Does a Community Ever Live Up to Our Expectations?

Humanity has always seemed to have a love/hate relationship with the communities we develop. On the one hand, we’re communal beings, attracted to living with one another. No man is an island. On the other hand, once we are in a community we struggle to get along. Nowhere is this more evident than in the extremely polarized political society that exists here in America.

For Mrs. LanceAround and I, we spent our lives seeking the best community for our family. When our children were young, we moved into Celebration, FL; a new community designed by Disney World espousing world class schools, exceptional technology, a focus on health and well being and a community of people wanting to create a better life. However, it didn’t take long for us to discover that this high priced development attracted a disproportionate number of extreme conservative minded individuals which made living there a challenge for the hippie-esque, liberal leaning LanceAround family.

Our response was to find a cohousing community in Blacksburg, VA, filled with like minded tofu loving, tree hugging types. At first, it seemed idyllic. But it didn’t take long to discover our new community was far worse. We came to realize that the issue was never one of conservative vs. liberal or old fashioned vs. modern. It had to do with extremists vs. those capable of a reasonable, thoughtful point of view. In our cohousing community, many residents were extreme and just as selfish and unable to hear or appreciate alternate points of view as the extreme right wingers from our other community.

In other words, no matter how idealistic humans are when forming a community, once formed, the community has to deal with the non-idealistic side; the selfish, extremist, uncompromising and uncaring personalities which all of us humans have within us to one degree or another.

The Commune is a film from Denmark/Sweden/Netherlands that explores these issues within the setting of a large house. Professor Erik and his wife Anna inherit his spacious childhood home that appears too large for their family which includes teenage daughter Freja. In a moment of idealism, they decide to invite friends and interesting people to move into the home and form a commune. Ironically, the concept for cohousing was originally formulated in Denmark.

At first, the idea seems to work. Communal swim trips, mostly sans clothing, and weekly house meetings appear to create a wonderful sense of community. Then, the wheels begin to fall off the bus. One member interprets the rules to indicate anything left out by another member may be burned in the campfire. Erik begins an affair with one of his students. When his wife finds out, she suppresses her natural instincts of anger and betrayal and idealistically invites the student to join the commune.

With the entire commune as the backdrop, the story focuses on Erik and Anna and how Erik’s new lover impacts their relationship as well as the development of Freja, their daughter. In many ways, what happens between them mirrors what is happening with the entire commune which further mirrors the experiences Mrs. LanceAround and our family had in our quest for the ideal community.

The Commune so skillfully creates its characters and situations, the moviegoer is drawn into an ever evolving dynamic of idealism vs. reality; of the best and the worst humanity has to offer. Extremely well written, well acted and well filmed, this Danish film with English subtitles will have filmgoers spending a lot of time discussing their own idealistic visions of communities and the human foibles that seem to keep them from ever becoming perfect.

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