Wanderlust: Is Elysium a Real Place?

David Wain’s ‘Wanderlust’ has a fascinating narrative that intertwines different styles of comedy with the philosophy of knowing what you love. It is an intriguing tale of a couple, George and Linda, who lose employment and are forced to move cities. During this time, they stumble upon a hippie commune called Elysium that welcomes them as members.

In two minds, they reluctantly proceed on their journey, only to realize that the commune might be their real calling.  They settle on a 2-week trial period at the commune. During this time, Linda feels right at home, while George struggles to adapt to the alternative lifestyle. One now may wonder, does a place like Elysium really exist? SPOILERS AHEAD

Elysium is Fictional But Inspired by Real Hippie Communes

Elysium is not a real place; however, places like Elysium exist in reality across the globe. In the movie, George and Linda lose their respective jobs and decide to move to Atlanta, where George’s arrogant elder brother, Rick, has offered George a job in his business. On their way there, George and Linda rest for the night at a bed and breakfast called Elysium. They soon find out that Elysium isn’t just a B&B; it is also a commune of hippies who permanently reside there.

Elysium is best described as a community of hippies who live on common premises, sharing everything from clothing and toilets to even partners. The movie portrays the commune in a very shrewd and comedic way as a group of people who party in the evenings and partake in recreational drugs. However, this is merely an overstatement for cinematic effect.  While each commune has its own set of rules and regulations, one mutual thing among them is the ‘shared factor.’

Take, for instance, Katajuta, one of New Zealand’s last-standing hippie communes, founded in 1971 by six friends who traveled to New Zealand’s West Coast. They were searching for cheap land and found an abandoned farm near the Fox River. They purchased it for $6000 and set up a small hippie commune. Since its establishment, Katajuta has attracted hundreds of travelers from across the globe. Like numerous other communes, Katajuta also abides by the constructs of shared living.

Currently, only ten people live in the commune, as many of its members have become old. Coincidentally, Katajuta faces a legal dispute that could force them to sell the property, just like Elysium. What’s more interesting is the fact that both the fictional Elysium and the real-life Katajuta were founded in 1971. Carvin, from the film, owns Elysium and is of old age, resembling the real-life owners of Katajuta.  Now, we cannot ascertain whether Katajuta serves as an inspiration for Elysium even if their details are quite identical, but we’re quite certain that places like Katajuta exist all over the world.

Another such commune that resembles Elysium is the Twins Oak Community in Virginia, USA. It is a community founded in 1967 that lives among nature and leads lives of non-violence. Members of this community must work several hours to earn the right to shelter and food. Beneficio in Granada, Spain, is another like it. It is one of the oldest communes in Europe, housing over 250 residents. Beneficio, like many other communes, strives to live within nature and urges its residents to participate in shared-living activities.

With all this in mind, we can say that while Elysium might not be a real place, it certainly takes inspiration from numerous hippie communities around the world. While Elysium is slightly overexaggerated, some of its core ideals have a firm stance in reality.

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