Grief at the realization that all things must pass or the impermanence of existence is what drove Thomas Vinterberg to make The Commune. During a seminar at the Berliniale this year, the Danish director spoke openly of the fact that he still cannot accept or understand that we are all mortals, that existence comes to an end, that we all must die.
That everything will disappear and pass away becomes gradually clear in The Commune. The first hour rises energetically, then the first cracks in the harmony start appearing. Similarly as in his successful movie The Celebration (1998), where he lets the storyline arch upwards in a classic narrative form, then fall and end with another rising and “cleansing” third act on the morning after the great family dinner.
Vinterberg hails from the Danish Dogma movement, where he was the most prominent director alongside Lars von Trier. This too, had to pass. When 1400 people rose to applaud him after the premiere of The Celebration, he realized that this was the beginning of the end for the Dogma movement. The idea consisted of handheld cameras, natural lighting, no added music and no artificial effects added afterwards. The Dogma rules from 1998 quickly grew into a fashion – a uniform to wear in order to look good, an -ism, a success that he had to get away from in order to renew himself. At the seminar in Berlin he explained that he had to move from the inside to the outside. Indeed, social engagement, or an interest in community rather than the world of me-me-me, emerges more clearly when you pass thirty years of age and start tiring of the incessant Self.
Community. There are many qualities to “The Commune”. Particularly the photography, which is reminiscent of the work of another Dane, painter Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916). From the great house of the commune, one can sense the greyish hues from his art in darkened, empty rooms, doors, pitched ceilings, sun and shadows, as in Hammershøi’s “Dust Motes Dancing in Sunbeams” from 1900.