“Did you drown your girlfriend?”
Summer 04, a German film from director Stefan Krohmer in some ways reminded me of the films of Eric Rohmer. It concerns (like many Rohmer films) a group of people on holiday. This is a drama focused on character, but unlike Rohmer films, in this tale of adultery and jealousy there’s a great deal of nastiness afoot.
The story concerns husband, political researcher Andre (Peter Davor), his sexy wife Mirjam (Martina Gedeck), and their teenage son, Nils (Lucas Kotaranin). The family is spending the summer at their holiday home, and Nils has brought along his 12-year-old girlfriend, Livia (Svea Lohde) for company while her parents are on holiday in Mexico. Nils is 3 years older than Livia, but she’s so self-assured, confident, and competent that she seems much more mature than her sullen boyfriend.
Problems begin to emerge almost immediately. Nils and Livia take the family’s boat out sailing, but a disgruntled Nils returns alone. When questioned, he admits that he left Livia (and the boat) with a stranger they met. Mirjam is concerned about Livia’s safety while Andre remains disinterested. When the stranger shows up–an older man, named Bill, he seems rather impressed with Livia.
Bill has recently returned from living in America, and he’s now renovating his home near by. Mirjam, who smolders with a tough sexuality, is attracted to him and begins including him in some of the family’s activities. But Bill seems to want to spend time with Livia, and just what are his motives in wanting to hang out with a 12 year old?
As the story develops, Mirjam decides to intervene in the relationship between Livia and Bill. Unfortunately no one else seems to find Bill’s interest in Livia odd. But then again just why is Mirjam concerned? While it’s true that she’s responsible for Livia, is she motivated by worry or jealousy? The family quietly absorbs the ramifications of what is happening, but no one directly discusses the impact of events.
Summer 04 is an intriguing film that never really gives us the answers to the questions it raises. Too subdued to be classified as a thriller, nonetheless, there’s a great deal of suspense in this fascinating drama that underscores the impossibility of deciphering human motivation.