Miriam (Martina Gedeck, Mostly Martha), Andre (Peter Davor), their son Niels (Lucas Kotaranin) and his girlfriend Livia (Svea Lohde) head to the Baltic Sea for a relaxing vacation. There the family encounters Bill (Robert Seeliger), an attractive but lonely man, who has recently returned to Germany after many years of living abroad. They quickly become friends and even sail together when the weather allows it.
Attracted by Livia and her wit Bill invites the young girl to spend more time with him. Miriam, who has assumed responsibility for Livia while she is away from her parents, becomes concerned that a friendship between a 12-year old girl and a man in his upper 30s can only produce trouble. Especially given Livia's sexually immature behavior!
In the meantime Niels who has been hoping to solidify his relationship with Livia becomes increasingly hostile to his parents. He isn't willing to openly confront his girlfriend yet when his parents attempt to do so he rejects them.
After a delightful afternoon with Bill Livia decides to spend the night away from her boyfriend and his parents. Determined to finally take matters into her own hands Miriam heads to Bill's place ready to confront him. When she arrives Miriam is surprised to discover that Livia is nowhere to be seen.
Intelligently-written, thought-provoking, and extremely subtle Stefan Krohmer's latest picture Sommer 04 a.k.a Summer 04 (2006) lives up to the rave it produced during last year's Cannes Film Festival. With a story which deceivingly heads into a familiar territory only to eventually surprise the viewer with a much more complex message this is indeed a film for those who like their cinema with a twist.
It does take a while however for Krohmer to truly open up! This young and very talented German director has produced a film where the cast genuinely looks unaware of the camera's presence. Furthermore, instead of a clichéd approach to many of the painfully familiar themes in Summer 04 the picture unveils a panorama of different angles, some unexpected, some deceivingly honest.
The key to understanding the film, or at least a possible starting point, is without a doubt Bill's character. The emotional connection he experiences with Livia is what indubitably has Summer 04 working on multiple levels. Understanding the two worlds Livia and Bill belong to, the one where love is capable of producing miracles, and the other where societal norms and expectations have greatly diminished its power, is the greatest test Krohmer offers his viewers. I guarantee you will be challenged to figure out the motives driving the two characters' actions.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's this does appear to be yet another one of those dreaded PAL-ports we keep talking about. Which is a shame! Mongrel Media deliver a print where there is plenty of "ghosting", combing, and unfortunately more often than not the image appears annoyingly soft. Contrast is also rather shaky as both during daylight and nighttime scenes I noticed plenty of unnatural fluctuations. In addition, I did see some mild flickering which those of you with larger TVs will undoubtedly notice. Not quite a pleasant experience indeed but I suppose Mongrel Media are content with what they produce. I am certainly not!!
How Does the DVD Sound?
There isn't much to praise here either! The film is presented with a basic German 2.0 track which isn't fatal but certainly isn't an acceptable option either. While the film does rely on plenty of dialog there are quite a few subtle scenes I believe would have benefited from the inclusion of a more advanced audio track. As it is the treatment Mongrel Media provide is average at best regardless of the fact that there aren't any intrusive drop-outs or hissings. Finally, the DVD comes with optional French and English subtitles.
Unfortunately there isn't a anything else to be found on this disc.
First of all, I have decided to recommend this film solely based on its high quality. The upcoming German-Austrian release (in fact the R2 disc was just released this past week) isn't going to be English-friendly and realistically this means that at least for now the Canadian import is the only way you could see Summer 04.
Second of all, you clearly need to make up your mind before spending money on the DVD by referring to the technical presentation paragraph above. This is quite an unpopular way of recommending this film but all facts must be known so there aren't any misunderstandings at the end. As to Mongrel Media and their work I've said it before and I will say it again – I love their diverse catalog of world films but it is quite a shame that no one in the company has the courage to address the technical issues plaguing their releases. What a bummer as Mongrel Media could be a major player on the market.