Sep 19, 2001 at 12:00 am

Don’t expect an idealized portrait of commune life from Swedish writer-director Lukas Moodysson. He’s more interested in portraying the way ideals clash with ingrained patterns of behavior, how becoming the person we want to be is compromised by the person we actually are.

It’s Stockholm during the fall and winter of 1975, and the members of the commune Tillsammans (“Together”) are immersed in a comfortably prickly existence, with every minor conflict the cause for long-winded group discussions. Ten people occupy the house in a leafy, middle-class neighborhood, and they communally own a VW bus with their logo on the side. Their menu is strictly vegetarian; a few children (named Tet and Moon) reside with their idealistic parents; they embrace radical politics (collectively cheering the death of Spanish dictator Franco), and sexual possessiveness — not to mention heterosexuality — is seen as quaintly old-fashioned.

Into this leftist Eden, Moodysson plants some seeds of discord when suburban housewife Elizabeth (Lisa Lindgren), older sister of the house’s put-upon peacemaker, Goran (Gustaf Hammarsten), comes to live at Tillsammans with her 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son after a beating from her alcoholic husband Rolf (Michael Nyqvist). These newcomers aren’t pitted against the established residents, but their presence allows barely submerged rivalries and resentments to rise to the surface, which eventually shakes the foundation of the community.

Like the people it portrays, Together is by turns earnest and bittersweet, comic and romantic, strident and forgiving. Moodysson may have started off with archetypes — dimwitted politico Erik (Olle Sarri) who blindly embraces doctrine or provocateur Lasse (Ola Norell), whose biting humor masks a broken heart — but by the film’s ending, a joyous embrace of simple communal pleasures, he’s created a compelling portrait of contrarian individuals whose strength comes from togetherness.

Opens Friday exclusively at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple, W of Telegraph). Call 248-542-0180.

Showing exclusively at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple, W of Telegraph). Call 248-542-0180.