First off, I'd like to thank the wonderful BJ-C over at Day of The Woman for bringing this film to my attention. Muchos kudos to my fellow blogging friends when they spotlight and feature indie filmmakers.
The Commune is a film with a vast array of themes: sexual discovery, what it means to be a woman and, subsequently, come of age. But the film also deals with the loss of innocence and how those in power, namely your parental figures, can abuse it for their own self-serving needs. Despite some flaws in pacing and some rough around the edges editing, the film delivers in a way that recalls the slow burn of films like The Wicker Man and Rosemary's Baby. And along with it, comes a stellar building of tension and atmosphere.
After a shocker of an opener to get things hopping (hey, I have to keep this somewhat spoiler free, right?), our story starts with a young girl named Jennifer. Fresh out of school for the summer break, she's forced to spend time with her fairly non-existent father. You see, her parents divorced when she was little and her dad left and started a new age-y type of commune with a group of followers. Along with re-entering her life, the father is threatening legal action in order to gain custody. In a hopeful act of appeasement, her mother reluctantly gets Jennifer to spend the summer at the commune in the hopes of getting him to drop his legal threats. The mother, suspecting that the father is using his idyllic sanctuary for less than truthful purposes, asks the daughter to keeps eyes wide open in an effort to get some dirt which could in turn, be used against him.
From the moment she arrives and is greeted by a motherly figure who runs the ship at the mystical retreat, an eerie sense of foreboding permeates. From the statues and iconography which adorns the landscape, to the overly creepy and much too 'high on life' and even natured tenants, to her own father who oftentimes channels his inner Lord Summerisle. Not to mention, she's haunted nightly by strange dreams and occurances which aid in blurring the lines of her sense of reality.
When Jennifer gets too creeped out and tires of being cooped up, she heads out into town and runs into a rocker looking guy which she instantly falls for. Much to the dismay and berating of her father, she sneaks away to see him and a summer romance unfolds. This is where the movie's momentum really takes a nosedive. Diverging from the expert pacing and tension built up to this point, we get a Dawson's Creek-ish scene as rocker boy busts out his acoustic guitar and serenades her. It's necessary in the context of the film for sure with the themes of youthful innocence and love. But it really detracts from the effort made. And I felt like the scene dragged on for far longer than it needed to.
Thankfully, the ship rights itself and things slowly devolve into madness as Jennifer discovers that her father has been hiding a lot more than she thought. We are treated to her father's philosophy on the familial unit and his goal of 'redefining what it means to be family' by 'planting a seed'. This coupled with a scene in which the father subtly makes a pass, your are led to believe that he has less than favorable intentions for his daugher. After a few childhood flashbacks and a revelation that the daughter is not as pure as originally thought, we are brought to a shocking and brutal climax to our film.
Despite it's flaws (I also mentioned editing as some of the scene transitions were fairly choppy), The Commune is a fine first effort from filmmaker Elisabeth Fies. And I also have to think that the film hits particularly hard for some female viewers. That's not to say that us duderinos won't find enough within the film to make it a terrifying and thought provoking movie watching experience. But its evident that with a breaking of the father-daughter bond on top of the loss of innocence, that this movie is what the tagline bills: 'Every Girl's Worst Fear.'
Cortez the Killer