Summer ’04 (2006)

17 06 2008

Probably the weakest film I’ve seen out of the little movement currently going on in Germany. In his defense, director Stefan Krohmer isn’t technically considered a member of the Berliner Schule. Unfortunately, here in the west, modern German cinema isn’t particularly well represented, in the digital format or otherwise. Taking this into consideration, this does fit very well into the aforementioned movement. In fact, the whole premise shares a striking resemblance to Angela Schanelec’s Nachmittag. Krohmer isn’t nearly as daring as Schanelec, but he does create a collection of fleshed-out characters and makes all their interactions, despite their melodramatic surface, very believable.

Miriam and her husband, Andre have created an adequate middle class household for their fifteen year old son, Nils. For the holidays, the family retreats to their own secluded beach house. Nils invites along his flirty, 12 year old girlfriend, Livia. As opposed to spending time with Nils, she dedicates most of her time to hanging out with Bill, the much older neighbor. This makes Miriam a bit uneasy and so she decides to talk with Bill, who, to her surprise, is quite friendly. The two begin in an affair, which creates an unbearable amount of tension between Miriam and Livia. This tension threatens to destroy the family as well as their vacation.

At the risk of sounding a bit cynical, there is nothing particularly special about this film. It’s not outrightly “conventional” but Krohmer obviously lacks the clear and confident aesthetic of his peers. On the other hand, it can be argued that the technical aspects of the film are in no shape important. Indeed, this is very much a “character-driven” story, which turns out rather well considering the fact that nearly all of the performances are very convincing. Martina Gedeck in particular, is quite special. Her potential was visible in The Lives of Others but she was downplayed just by how mediocre that film is as a whole. Maybe only the son delivers a problem in terms of acting, but I think that role is pretty underwritten to begin with. I understand that the character isn’t the focus but that doesn’t mean he has to be the single most uninteresting person ever conceived. The filmmakers try to throw in some “teenage angst” stuff at the end but its a case of too little, too late. All the other relationship stuff makes this worthwhile, though, albeit somewhat forgettable.

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