Review: Summer ‘04

It explores with unpretentious candor how a young girl’s sexual agency rebukes an older generation’s notions of right and wrong.

Summer ‘04
Photo: Cinema Guild

Stefan Krohmer’s Summer ‘04 couldn’t have come soon enough. An expansive psychological study, Krohmer’s second feature exudes the fleeting quality of a summer breeze, exploring with unpretentious candor—and very little skin—how a young girl’s sexual agency rebukes an older generation’s notions of right and wrong. Twelve-year-old Livia (Svea Lohde), who stays with her boyfriend Nils (Lucas Kotaranin) at his parents’ summer retreat while her mother and father vacation in Mexico, brings home a man, Bill (Robert Seeliger), after a mysterious sailing trip. Nils’s father, André (Peter Davor), does not like Bill’s persistence (particularly his “American habit” of admiring people’s homes), and his mother, Miriam (Martina Gedeck), smells a rat. The next day, after Livia doesn’t return to the house following a daytrip with Bill, Miriam puts on her best Chris Hansen face, riding to the man’s rustic estate expecting a scene out of Lolita only to see her own predatory instincts exposed. Livia catches everyone off guard, challenging their sense of complacency and stirring up their passions, and the film dares to suggest that a girl her age might know exactly what she’s doing when she throws herself at an older man, and that it wouldn’t be altogether strange if that man returned her feelings. Everyone behaves according to what society has deemed acceptable, but all sorts of peculiar, premeditated behavior—the kind not so easily punishable by the law—manifests elsewhere. Philip Lopate, writing for Film Comment, rightfully praised Gedeck’s performance for its graduations of feeling as her character “goes from being uptight mother hen to the captive of her libido without our ever questioning her consistency.” The reason we don’t is because her behavior is consistent with that of anyone who has come to the realization that the question of morality, not just as it pertains to sex, is not so easily classified as black and white. The film leaves you wondering what could possibly happen in the summer of ‘05.

Score: 
 Cast: Martina Gedeck, Robert Seeliger, Svea Lohde, Peter Davor, Lucas Kotaranin, Nicole Marischka, Gábor Altorjay, Michael Benthin  Director: Stefan Krohmer  Screenwriter: Daniel Nocke  Distributor: Cinema Guild  Running Time: 97 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2006  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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