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New Release Review - THE SUMMER HOUSE (DVD)

A married father takes a disturbing interest in his friend's young son.

Review by Emily Craig

Directed by: Curtis Burz

Starring: Sten Jacobs, Anna Altmann, Jaspar Fuld, Nina Splettstößer




"At times it made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and anxious, and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not. I guess the whole point of the film is to be shocking, and in that way it has triumphed."





Directed by Curtis Burz, The Summer House (Das Sommerhaus in Germany) is a controversial drama which contains an extremely trivial subject manner. The film is about the Larsens, a middle-class family who are undergoing some deep issues. Father and husband Markus (Sten Jacobs), an architect, satisfies his bisexual desires whilst pushing wife Christine (Anna Altmann) and daughter Elisabeth (Nina Splettstößer) to the side. These aren’t the only desires that Markus has; financially troubled colleague Christopher (Stephan Bürgi) has a child named Johannes (Jaspar Fuld) the same age as Elisabeth and suggests that the two children become closer. Markus takes a disturbing liking towards Johannes and becomes more and more closer to him, pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable.
As mentioned, the subject content is controversial and as pedophilia is a very serious issue, not many films dare to portray this on screen; notable respected films that have dealt with the issue include: Lolita (1962), The Woodsman (2004) and The Hunt (2012). Similar to the issues raised in The Woodsman, The Summer House deals with a man who has strong sexual desires towards a child, but as far as the viewer can see, does not act out the forbidden cravings. Controversially, it puts you at a sympathetic view with the pedophile as they are the main protagonist and you are seeing the film from their perspective, which can make audiences very awkward.
I’m not entirely sure what to think about The Summer House; at times it made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and anxious, and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not. I guess the whole point of the film is to be shocking, and in that way it has triumphed, but the way Markus stares at Johannes throughout the film is very unnerving. What is frightening about the relationship between the two is that to onlookers, it looks completely innocent; like a father and son having a nice time, which does make you question what you see on an everyday basis.
The Summer House is essentially about a broken family and is a great example of the well-known phrase “money can’t buy you happiness”. The acting at times can be quite wooden, particularly from Jacobs and Altmann; there isn’t an awful lot of conversation, which is why strong acting would have come in handy. The soundtrack is a little out of place and makes the film seem old fashioned and more like a classic soap-opera rather than a modern film; this takes away from the seriousness of the film at times.
The ending of the film was the highlight (and not because it was finishing); Johannes was the victim and Markus the predator throughout, but the well thought out finale completely turns this around. What seemed so innocent at the beginning eventually becomes out of control and everyone’s life is ruined. The Summer House is a well written film which has succeeded in what it aimed to do; however this is let down by a lack of style and weak acting.




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