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February 27, 2007

Summer 04, 2006

summer04.gifStefan Krohmer's deceptively lyrical Summer 04 chronicles the unexpected, life altering summer vacation of domestic partners Mirjam (Martina Gedeck) and André (Peter Davor), and their teenage son Nils (Lucas Kotaranin) as they attempt to navigate through the murky, uncharted waters of romantic - and emotional - entanglements caused by the introduction of Nils' precocious, 12 year old girlfriend, Livia (Svea Lohde) into their comfortable and predictably routine lives. In retrospect, the idyllic images of weather worn summer cottages, bicycle rides through the country, sun drenched days, outdoor dining, and afternoon sailing excursions would prove to be a deceptive foil to film's the dark, slow brewing tale of dangerous attraction and forbidden desire, as Livia's unorthodox - and uncomfortably libertine - attitude creates an complicated emotional dynamic when, one day, Nils turns over the helm of his father's catamaran (along with his unresisting girlfriend) to an attractive, young American expatriate named Bill (Robert Seeliger) and invites him into their home. Unsettled by Bill's implicit over familiar response to Livia's obliging attention and bound by a sense of responsibility over Livia's entrusted care in her parents' absence, Mirjam seeks to drive a wedge in the budding relationship between the two, an insinuation into their lives that unwittingly exposes the fragile emptiness of her own unfulfilling relationship with the all too complacent and easy going André. Evoking the moral tales of Eric Rohmer in its understated, yet perceptive conversational approach to the inconstant rationalizations and (over) intellectualizations that seek to reconcile (or at least self-justify) the mysteries of the human heart, the film is an acutely observed exposition on the amorphous terrain of human attraction, fidelity, guilt, and longing.

Posted by acquarello on Feb 27, 2007 | | Filed under 2007, Film Comment Selects


I was really moved by this film when I saw it at TIFF, so much so that I can't think of another film I saw at the festival that affected me in quite the same way. Krohmer does a great job of quietly illustrating how this family's lack of obligation to each other and their own underlying carelessness (and moral bankruptcy) creates disaster for all of them; and the beauty of the film is how nicely shaded everything is. There's little or no melodrama. There's also a richness to the personalities; these are all likeable people, but they're simlutaneously (as Phillip Lopate once wrote in Film Comment) entirely appalling, not least of all the father, who is so laissez-faire in his attitude towards his family that he's partly to blame for what happens. I think it's the ending, though, that really got me; without giving it away to anyone reading this who hasn't seen the film, the small revelation about one of the character's motives puts the whole film into a larger, more tragic perspective.

Posted by: Michael on Feb 28, 2007 1:58 PM | Permalink

Thanks, Michael, you're absolutely right about the lack of obligation being so understated, yet the consequences being so profound. At first, it just seemed like little things, like Nils entrusting his father's boat and his girlfriend to a total stranger. But on the other hand, it was also a symptom of something bigger, something truly lacking in their moral fiber. I was also thinking of the film along the lines of Rohmer's quandaries, Pauline at the Beach for one, where the younger generation seems to be more grounded than their adult contemporaries, but there's still a tinge of hypocrisy in everything that the characters do.

Posted by: acquarello on Feb 28, 2007 7:48 PM | Permalink

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