Ya gotta love a director whose first film was titled Fucking Åmål (Raus Aus Åmål in Swedish), which of course had to be retitled to something inane like Show Me Love in the US. No? Well, if not love, then at least I’d be interested in seeing his next film, which is this one. No film since Taking Woodstock or Across the Universe has taken me back to my hippie-dippy past like this one. Apparently, in Sweden in 1975 things were just as silly as they were in the Haight-Ashbury and Marin Country, where I lived in those years. I’m so glad I didn’t live in Berkeley, where it was even worse. Worse? Worse, you say? I thought that was supposed to be a wonderful time. And you’re right, it was, but that was at least partly because we were too young to see how fucked-up some of it was.
How about Marxism/Leninism? That’s the kind of thing I avoided by never living in Berkeley, where it was rampant. Here, there’s a character who can talk about nothing but communism and its various offshoots. He would rather do that than get laid. For him, buttering toast is a political act.
But consider some of the other things the people in the little commune called Together practice. There’s a woman who has announced that she is now a lesbian, for political reasons. I knew women like that! The commune bans “war toys.” Most of the people I knew did that! In fact, we did, too, and it didn’t do a damn bit more good than it does here. The fact is, show a little boy a toy gun, and he is instantly in love. Of course there is vegetarianism. Many of my friends practiced that, still do, and I have no problem with it. But the kids do! They stage a demonstration in the kitchen, demanding meat. A terrifically funny scene. Every small detail here is examined in the light of politics. I’ll bet they can’t brush their teeth without questioning where the toothbrush came from, and whether it was made by third-world labor. And sex roles. I saw a lot of that’s shit, too. Trying to convince boys to play with dolls, discouraging girls from playing dress-up or have little tea parties. Didn’t work worth a damn.
In fact, hardly any of it did. And the victims here, and in many of the communes I visited in the ‘60s and ‘70s, were the kids. One woman, after being beaten by her alcoholic husband (Michael Nyqvist, about as far from his role and the gentle Kalle Blomkvist in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as you can get), joins her brother, who is sort of the leader of the commune, or at least the one who gets in the middle of all the fights and tries to make peace. She brings her two children with her … and they hate it. Eva, the twelve-year-old, retreats into the VW van, she feels so alienated. She is played by Emma Samuelsson, in a terrific performance.
But it’s not all bad. They are genuinely trying to make a better world and there’s worth in that, although they are incredibly naïve—just like me and my friends were—and although I really fault their parenting skills. (And that rings true, too. I was present many times when joints were passed to kids as young as three or four, and everybody but me thought it was great that they were getting high.) I liked this movie, even when it was almost painful to watch.