Summer '04

2006, Movie, NR, 97 mins


With a nod to Max Ophuls' 1949 crime melodrama THE RECKLESS MOMENT and a wink at the films of veteran New Wavers Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, German director Stefan Krohmer and his frequent collaborator, screenwriter Daniel Nocke, explore the psychosexual dynamics threatening one seemingly happy family's summer vacation.

Forty-year-old literature professor Miriam Franz (MOSTLY MARTHA's Martina Gedeck) and her equally attractive partner, Andre (Peter Davor), are spending their summer holiday on the Baltic coast with their 16-year-old son, Nils (Lucas Kotaranin), and his barely 13-year-old girlfriend, Livia (Svea Lohde). Livia's parents have left their daughter in Miriam and Andre's care while they vacation in Mexico, and just how much control they're expected to exert over the surprisingly mature adolescent becomes a cause of concern when Livia returns from sailing in the company of handsome sports agent Bill (Canadian actor Robert Seeliger), who's easily twice her age. Livia and Bill spent the entire afternoon together and have plans to meet again the following day, despite Nils' sulking and the cool reception Bill receives from Andre and Miriam. The next night, when Livia fails to return home at the expected hour, Miriam begins to worry. Over the objections of the more liberal-minded Andre, who insists Livia is mature enough to know what she's getting herself into, Miriam drives over to Bill's cottage and finds the good-looking stranger alone. He and Livia have had an argument over whether or not they would have sex — Bill claims he didn't want to — and she stormed out. By the time she returns, Miriam and Bill are much better acquainted and the attraction between them is undeniable.

Krohmer and Nocke gradually expose the ley lines of desire that run beneath this respectable family's seemingly solid foundations: Andre's own sidelong interest in young Livia (his defense of her privacy reveals the ease with which he regards her as a fully sexualized object of a grown man's desire); Nils' barely concealed animosity toward his father; Bill's rationalization for his pedophilia as the natural result of his disillusionment with the greed and stupidity of adults. And above all, Miriam's unacknowledged jealousy of Livia — an envy of youth and beauty that ends in disaster. The film unfolds with cold, Chabrolian detachment and quietly builds to a coolly satisfying denouement that leaves everyone involved — including the audience — second-guessing everything that's come before. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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