American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
With the recent announcement by its exiled founder that the Body Shop is an empty shell of commercialism, the 1970s, I suppose, are now officially over. “Together,” a sly, satirical Swedish film, shows the decade coming apart as early as 1975. In a commune in Stockholm, a mixed bag of adults, some with children, try to live according to their ideals, while human nature does its best to force them toward compromise, corruption, and--worst of all--realism.
Watching the film awakened memories of the time: a mother protesting against the gender-coding of pink and blue children's blankets. Arguments about men doing the dishes. Denouncements of Pippi Longstocking as a materialist and capitalist. A child named Tet, after the North Vietnamese offensive. “Open relationships,” which have a way of ending in no relationships at all. By the time the kids start picketing for the right to eat meat, we see their point.
“Together” is the latest film by Lukas Moodysson, a distinctive new Swedish director, whose previous film, “Show Me Love” (1998), told the tender story of two misfit teenage girls who fall in love, even though one is probably straight. He has an ability to hold opposing ideas of the same character at the same time, which makes his people more intriguing and convincing than movie characters who are assigned rigid descriptions.
In “Together,” for example, an abused wife comes to the commune with her two children, fleeing her alcoholic husband. When we see the husband, he creates a drunken scene after taking his kids to a Chinese restaurant, and gets arrested. But Moodysson doesn't leave it at that. He shows the husband at work as a plumber and introduces a minor character--an older man who calls the plumber just because he is lonely.