Filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg has taken the mantra of "start with what you know" and has dived in headfirst with
, a romantic coming-of-age drama that takes an idealized concept — forming a commune with others interested in sharing life together — and reveals the pros and cons of it all, all at the same time.
It's a reality that Vinterberg can speak to quite well. He spent several years as a child living in a commune along with his parents, and the experience shaped his life as a filmmaker, both via the stories he is attracted to and the way he tells those stories.
"Being a child in a house like this, which was also full of huge conflict, you have to learn to navigate the egos at a very close range," he
of gaining an unfiltered view of how people sell themselves — versus what they are really like on a day-in day-out basis.
"I learned a lot of lessons from that," he continues. It's a wry education that's proven very useful in Vinterberg's work with actors and in creating characters. His films tend to touch on family structures, communities and character-driven action, and in The Commune, he had the opportunity to create a set of bold, individualistic characters that all have their own worldview.
"Making a film about a commune, I felt … 'We gotta represent all of these characters' journeys,'" he adds. Even though a key theme of the film is the loss of innocence, there's no overarching moral platitude about whether or not humans are simply predestined to be self-centered, or whether we can actually thrive in a communal environment.
"I don't think you can generalize that," Vinterberg concludes. "We are all different. There is no natural recipe." But there is one unifying message, he notes, "This movie says that you can survive everything if you are together. That's the message I thought about when I made the movie. Obviously, everybody sees it individually and there is a lot of pain toward the end of the film, but I have to say, I miss living like that."