Sweden/Denmark/ Italy 2000. In colour with English subtitles.
Scripted and directed by Lukas Moodysson.
The film opens on November 20th 1975. A radio newsreader announces the death in Spain of General Franco. Göran (Gustaf Hammarsten) and his friends celebrate: I remember celebrating myself when I heard the news back then. It is a great way to open a film and this social comedy maintains the pleasure and interest through most of its 106 minutes. In fact, audience response was strong enough for it to get a second screening over the coming weekend at the Leeds International Film Festival.
Göran is a member of a commune, symbolised by the film’s title, which is also seen painted on the multi-coloured camping van that is driver around. Göran is affable, long suffering and eager to please most of the time. The disruption to this little community arrives in the shape of his sister Elizabeth Lisa Lindgren), fleeing her violent (after alcohol) husband Rolf (Mikael Nyqvist). She is accompanied by her two children, Eva (Emma Samuelsson) and Stefan (Sam Kessel): both are continually bemused by the behaviour of the adults around them. In the commune we have Göran’s less-than-faithful partner Lena. There is the separated couple of Anna (Jessica Lindberg) and Lasse (Ola Novell) with their son Tet (Axel Zuber, you can guess the source of his name). Lasse’s response to the martial break-up is an air of sarcasm: Anna has embraced lesbianism, possibly the cause of the break-up. The main butt of Lasse’s sarcasm is Erik (Olle Sarre), a middle class convert to Marxism-Leninism who has taken up a proletarian job, though he shows little acquaintance with the actual writings of Marx, Engels or Lenin. Lasse is also the object of gay Klas. Then there are Signe (Cecilia Frode), Sigvard (Lars Frode) and Mäne (Emil Moodysson); a family fervently committed to anti-materialism who move out (with the camping van) when a television arrives in the house.
The activities of the commune are watched (sometimes from behind lace curtains) by neighbours Ragnar (Claes Hartellus), Margit (Therese Brunnander) and their son Fredrik (Henrik Lundström). Ragnar (along with Lena) is the really the only unsympathetic character in the story, striking his son when he develops a friendship with Eva, and sneaking off to masturbate in his basement workshop. Finally there is Rolf’s friend Birger (Sten Ljunggren) separated and lonely.
As with his previous film Show Me Love (1998, Fucking Ámal) Moodysson combined a strong empathy with his characters with an open and fairly explicit treatment of their lives and relationships. Whilst the films gently sends up the values of the 1970s and its protest groups, there is clearly both warmth and sympathy for these representatives of the alternative society. The film is very funny and the distinctive characters developed in fascinating ways. Two recurring scenes in the film involve firstly washing and up and then communal football. Both cast a revealing eye on the situation. Director of Photography Ulf Brantás makes effective use of natural light and a hand-held camera, (though this is not a Dogme film).
Some sense of the film’s final comment on this community can be gauged by noting that it opens and closes with Abba’s song ‘SOS’; and that the other song to be aired twice in the film is Peps Persson’s rendering of ‘Love Hurts’.