Berlin and Beyond: Stiller Sommer (Silent Summer)

In Stiller Sommer, the cleverly-named Winter family, in bits and pieces, each retreat to their summer home in a town in the south of France, where other German expat friends also reside. Director Nana Neul and cinematographer Leah Striker capture the perfect languor of a French summer: fractured sunlight through the trees, flirtatious perambulations through nature, and bourgeois bohemians darting in and out of houses, drinking, making, love, dancing, and talking of life. Summer is indeed a metaphor for the malleable and fallible nature of time and memory. As the Winter family and their friends wander through the forest, they also wander back to the past, which, as we find out, is full of old loves, entanglements, and secrets, all of which spill out at inappropriate times. Summer—with its attendant smells, familiar bodies, and recurring group of characters—has a way of confusing the past with the present. Further, as the camera shifts from Kristine Winter to her husband, Herbert, and the other characters, eventually encompassing a variety of points of view, the subtext of their narrative becomes clearer: everyone is tiptoeing around a devastating incident from the past. As each character asserts his/her recollection of that incident, their subjectivities further add to the problem of time and memory. This funny and tender film —and its echoes of Eric Rohmer—guides us gently through the lives of these well-meaning if sometimes adolescent adults, with whose antics we empathize. Blame it on the heat.

With a most hilarious and sharp Victoria Trauttsmandorf, who plays Kristine’s friend Barbara.

Stiller Sommer (Silent Summer), dir. Nana Neul, 2013. 89 min. 2 Pilots Filmproduktion, et al. In German and French.