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Koch Lorber presents
Summer '04 (Sommer '04) (2006)

"I find it a little weird."
- Miriam (Martina Gedick)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: June 24, 2008

Stars: Martina Gedick, Robert Seeliger, Peter Davor, Svea Lohde, Lucas Kotaranin
Other Stars: Nicole Marischka, Gábor Altorjay
Director: Stefan Krohmer

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexuality, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:37m:49s
Release Date: June 10, 2008
UPC: 741952316596
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B-B- B-

DVD Review

Sometimes I really wonder who puts those often misleading critic blurbs on DVD covers. Case in point with Summer '04 (Sommer '04), the recent Cannes-buzz feature from German director Stefan Krohmer. A quick glance reveals "psychological thriller", "high wires of tension" and "a sunny noir tragicomedy", all of which are wrong, wrong and wrong. Those statements put a completely incorrect tilt on this film, and if you went into this expecting a thriller, for example, it is likely you would be greatly disappointed.

Ditto for the "tragicomedy" part, as well.

That's too bad, because Krohmer's Summer '04 is a fascinating watch, a relatively simple tale of freedom, sexuality and happiness, centered around what should have been a relaxing family holiday by the sea. Miriam (Martina Gedick) and Andre (Pete Davor), along with their 15-year-old son Nils (Lucas Kotaranin) and his 12-year-old girlfriend-of-sorts Livia (Svea Lohde), all discover that brazen sexual tension and attraction, in all its forms, runs deep and may be impossible to control. Miriam is confused by Livia's outgoing and potentially dangerous sexuality, and when the young girl meets Bill (Robert Seeliger) a friendly 30-ish fellow also on holiday, things get complicated. Krohmer unfolds the narrative slowly, occasionally taking a sudden turn in the storytelling, while allowing the talented cast to hold our attention.

And the cast—all of whom provide quiet, revelatory nuances—are key to the compelling mature nature of Summer '04. Robert Seeliger has to straddle a sexual dilemma or two, and for once the male in this type of role is not painted broadly as a cad or predator, despite the way it may appear on the surface. Martina Gedick gives a truly commanding turn here, playing both concerned matriarch and woman-on-the-verge with a refreshing dash of frank European honesty. Gedick's Miriam says and does what we expect her to do, what want her to do, at least until a point, and even then she makes it all seem plausible and even understandable somehow. She has an odd saunter when she moves—almost cat-like—and when she is onscreen it is difficult not to watch her.

Though this is ultimately Gedick's film to own, far more demanding is the performance of Svea Lohde—fourteen at the time of shooting, but portraying a 12-year-old. A very sexually open and mature 12-year-old. Lohde brings to the role all of the dangerous appeal of a much younger Tess-era Nastassja Kinski, into a character literally percolating with sexuality, curiosity and innocence. Yet this isn't just a simple Lolita caricature from Lohde, because as the film progresses Krohmer gently shears off that level of "this is wrong" maturity, as Livia is allowed to be seen for what she really is—a young girl who sees much more than she lets on.

This isn't necessarily a feel-good drama of sexual awakening, but it's tightly acted throughout, and director Stefan Krohmer bobs and weaves into forbidden territory with surprising ease.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Koch Lorber is a bit drab, with colors somewhat lacking. Overall it remains slightly to the left of average, and while the print itself is fairly clean, the level of detail remains noticeably soft throughout. There are no glaring moments of debris, yet a measurable amount of haloing is also evident, rendering this R1 release not quite the sweeping improvement it could have been, or deserves to be.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Germanno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in German, in Dolby Digital 2.0 (with optional English subs). With no score to speak of, the film is all built on dialogue and small sounds, and the mix is very minimal in its presentation. No surround cues, and the whole shebang is anchored fully in the front channels, with voice quality consistently hiss-free and clear.

Plain, but fine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring La Moustache, Changing Times, Gilles' Wife, Soundless, Allegro, Nathalie
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Extras consist of Making Of (17m:12s), an oddly concocted but watchable EPK, with cast and crew discussing the film, here still referred to as Summer 01 On The Schlei in its early stages. There's rehearsal and behind-the-scenes footage, as well as discussion of how difficult it was to shoot some of the sailing sequences. Svea Lohde and Lucas Kotaranin provide their interpretations of their characters backgrounds in a moment that almost seems as if it could have been lifted from the film itself.

There's a block of four deleted scenes (08m:37s), including an alternate take of the scene with Livia's mother, played by Nicole Marischka. As in the completed print, Marischka delivers one of the big emotional punches, and her one short scene is a beaut. Also included are a set of trailers (including one for the feature), with the disc cut into a skimpy 12 chapters, with optional English subs.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Summer '04 is a mature drama that boldly moves outside the lines just when you think you know where it's going. All of the performances are way above bar here, no matter how minimal the screen time, and director Stefan Krohmer shows himself very adept at drawing out the layered sexual facets of the human condition, all with a slow, measured hand.

The transfer is just so-so, but don't let that scare you off.

Recommended.

 


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