Aug 26, 2015
Ever since at least the period when Rainer Werner Fassbinder and various other auteur filmmakers of New German Cinema started dominating the international arthouse realm during the late-1960s and early-1970s, the Teutons have been the foremost producers of the darkest, most morbid, and even grotesque (melo)dramas in the world, which is certainly no surprise considering the nation's singularly horrendous recent history, which included the country being literally completely reduced to rubble as depicted in Roberto Rossellini's Germany Year Zero (1948) and losing about seven million people as a result of the Second World War, not to mention the incessant guilt-tripping its citizenry has been brainwashed with by the Allied Powers since then, which Hollywood has shown no sign of stopping as indicated by somewhat recent redundantly Teutonophobic films ranging from Paolo Sorrentino's sad pseudo-arthouse joke This Must Be the Place (2011) to David Ayer's mythmaking piece of preposterous patriotard celluloid idiocy Fury (2014). Indeed, even with the death of Fassbinder in 1982 and, in turn, New German Cinema and German cinema in general, the krauts still have managed to produce some of the most perturbing and dejecting dramas around the world as demonstrated by not only arthouse works like Fred Kelemen’s Frost (1997), Oskar Roehler’s Die Unberührbare (2000) aka No Place to Go, Kai S. Pieck’s Ein Leben lang kurze Hosen tragen (2002) aka The Child I Never Was, Matthias Glasner’s radical ‘rape epic’ Der Freie Wille (2006) aka The Free Will, Hans W. Geissendörfer’s Schneeland (2005) aka Snowland, Michael Haneke’s German-Austrian-French-Italian (anti)Heimat flick Das weiße Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte (2009) aka The White Ribbon, and Katrin Gebbe’s Tore tanzt (2013) aka Nothing Bad Can Happen but also big mainstream productions like Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Das Leben der Anderen (2006) aka The Lives of Others, Max Färberböck’s Anonyma - Eine Frau in Berlin (2008) aka A Woman in Berlin, and David Wnendt’s scatological coming-of-age tragicomedy Feuchtgebiete (2013) aka Wetlands, among countless other examples that demonstrate that the flames of the Dresden and Hamburg firebombings still burn deep in the German collective unconscious. Indeed, it seems that even despite the overall sorry state of contemporary Teutonic cinema—be it arthouse or otherwise—there is always some aberrant Aryan that feels the undying need to bleed their forlorn soul onto the silverscreen, even if they have little to no resources to work with. While Romanian by blood and birth, Berlin-based auteur Curtis Burz (Gib mir noch ein Jahr aka Give Me Another Year, Nora) has certainly followed in the Teutonic tradition of distinctly disturbing dramas that send the viewer into a taboo realm where they probably do not want to go, especially in regarding to his latest feature Das Sommerhaus (2014) aka The Summer House, which depicts interfamilial sexuality in a way that even puts Fassbinder to shame in terms of figuratively setting the bourgeois home on fire. The film is a sort of minimalistic arthouse melodrama with elements of the suspense-thriller sub-genre and tells the rather revolting yet nonetheless engulfing story of a fairly wealthy family man of the crypto-homo sort who begins falling in love with his friend’s preteen son, only for said preteen son to decide to blackmail the latent pederast to save his father from bankruptcy. Naturally, the family man has a sexually repressed wife which, in turn, has a negative effect on their preteen daughter. Overall, The Summer House is one fiercely fucked yet strangely dignified filmic family affair that demonstrates that you can create a groundbreaking arthouse work for the price of a cheap weekend vacation.
One particularly intriguing aspect of The Summer House is that it was directed by a professional psychologist who merely makes films in his free time (though he did study acting and directing at the Bremen Theatre Institute). Naturally, Burz’s experiences with patients informed his mental ‘script.’ Indeed, another interesting aspect of the auteur is that he managed to shoot the 100-minute feature on a almost nonexistent budget of 700 Euro without even completing a full script (the actors were only given a general synopsis and a general storyline to work with), yet The Summer House hardly resembles some sort of pretentious third rate Dogme 95 junk, even if it was shot on digital video. Ultimately, Burz’s utilized his own intuition in regard to the chemistry of the actors and their performances while constructing a cohesive body and storyline for the film. In fact, Burz did not even come up with an ending for the film until the very end of shooting, or as the director stated in an interview included with the Artsploitation Films DVD/Blu-ray release of the film, “And the finale simply presented itself during the process. So we didn’t know from the beginning or in the middle where the film would lead us, what the finale would be…We simply trusted our instincts. Whether it works for everyone who sees it, time will only tell.” Indeed, a slow-burning psychosexual family melodrama with virtually nil discernible moral compass that absolutely demands that the viewer do their own thinking, The Summer House is like Michael Haneke with a soul meets a reluctantly suburban German Hitchcock on a shockingly minuscule budget that puts most third world fuck flicks to shame.
If Burz has anything in common with Fassbinder aside from his relentless yet hardly moralistic critique of the bourgeoisie, tendency to utilize the same actors, and theatric background, it is that, at least in his film The Summer House, he refuses to portray any single one character as being completely innocent, including children, though some of them are certainly more innocent than others. In that regard, Burz's latest feature makes for a great double feature with The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971). While ostensibly the story of a middle-aged man living in suburban pandemonium with the soul of an Ancient Greek sod and the conniving Teutonic Justin Bieber lookalike that wants to take advantage of his highly deleterious weakness for virginal preteen flesh, The Summer House is really a passive ‘apolitical’ (translation: non-Marxist) critique of the upper-middleclass way of life and how such a hopelessly contrived, spiritually vacant, unnatural and largely materialist lifestyle causes the repression of certain instincts and impulses that eventually rise to the surface and break through with a completely catastrophic vengeance. Indeed, the film ultimately confirms many things I have observed from personal experience in regard to the unhappiness that the bourgeois dream sires, especially when it comes to people marrying unfit partners for monetary reasons who they inevitably grow to deeply resent due to a sheer and utter lack of common ground and sexual chemistry. Likewise, as the film also validates, these corrosive mismarriages also produce whacked out children who will go on to have toxic and oftentimes parasitic relationships when they grow up. In Burz’s film, a motherless 12-year-old boy takes it upon himself to convince a middle-aged man that he loves him while said middle-aged man’s 12-year-old daughter considers being a lesbian as an assumed result of all the misery she has encountered as a child via her parent’s miserable sham marriage. On top of everything else, the latent pederast protagonist does not mind if his best friend bangs his wife right in front of him, so long as he can get away with secretly blowing and being blown by young twinks. In other words, The Summer House is one majorly morbid and morose yet surprisingly beauteous family melodrama that is rather unfortunately totally relevant in our increasingly deracinated cosmopolitan times of pathologically prosaic ‘plastic’ bourgeois living, but it is directed in such a lavish and even sanitized way that one might mistake it for a TV commercial for a new upscale suburban neighborhood or PSA on the merits on upper-middleclass living if they were only to give it a superficial glance, thus making it quite Sirkin in many regards, albeit with the sometimes off-putting proto-liberal moralistic tone.
At the beginning of the film, successful architect Markus Larsen (Burz regular Sten Jacobs) takes various banal generic photos at the site of his latest construction project on his cellphone. After finishing snapping pictures, Markus flips through the pics on his phone, thus revealing an erotic pose of a young blond twink named Oliver (Tobias Frieben) and thereupon letting the viewer know that the protagonist is a homo with a perverse predilection for much younger men. As the viewer will soon discover, Markus is a full-blown ‘closest queen’ who is not only married to a woman that he deeply resents, but also has an emotionally confused preteen daughter who cannot stand the fact that her parents have a nightmarish relationship where love and affection are nowhere to be found. At the beginning of the film, Markus receives a phone-call from his handsome friend/business partner Christopher Degenhardt (Swiss-born actor Stephan Bürgi) urging him to come by his house, so the protagonist obliges and discovers that his comrade has “a fucking problem” that involves having to pay back taxes that he neglected to pay previously in a timely fashion or else he and his company will go completely bankrupt. While Markus agrees to loan him an unspecified fraction of the money, Christopher is still in serious trouble and he has not idea what to do. After Markus leaves, Christopher tells his 12-year-old son Johannes (Jaspar Fuld) that “I’ve really messed up” and that he needs to “make friends” with the protagonist’s daughter Elisabeth (Nina Splettstößer), who also happens to be the boy's classmate. Realizing his daddy is in deep shit, Johannes naturally agrees to help, though he has no idea at this point what particularly perverse lengths he will go to spare his father the mighty shame and burden of total financial disgrace and ruin. Meanwhile, Markus drives to a random house and tells his daughter he “could be a few minutes” while she waits in the car because he has to get something from a “coworker.” Of course, the coworker is the twink Oliver whose erotic picture he was previously looking at on his cellphone and Markus has come by the blond blowboy's house to simply cum in his mouth. While Elisabeth seems to sense that her father is acting somewhat dubiously, she has no clue to the true degree of his erratic extramarital depravity.
When little Johannes comes by the protagonist’s house to “make friends” with Elisabeth, he curiously immediately interrogates the girl about her father’s daily habits. As for Elisabeth, she seems to have a small crush on Johannes and decides to put on some makeup to impress him. While his daughter is getting all dolled up in the bathroom for her preteen gentleman caller, Markus takes the opportunity to invite Johannes to go “grilling” with him and his family at their summer house, which the young man somewhat reluctantly agrees to. Before the cookout, Markus has Chris and his Guidette-like girlfriend Anne Lass (casting assistant Natascha Zimmermann) come by for a seemingly stereotypical suburban get-together that ultimately evolves into a quick bourgeois orgy of sorts. Indeed, out of nowhere Chris and Anne begin making out and then the two eventually encourage Markus’ wife Christine (Burz regular Anna Altmann) to get up and join them while the protagonist remains at the dinner table with a discernible look of abject contempt on his face. Within literally less than a minute of the fully clothed threesome, Chris manages to make Markus' wife orgasm via cunnilingus, thus exposing the fact that Christine was in desperate need of having her main vein manhandled by a real man who, unlike her homo hubby, actually craves cunt. While Markus agrees to penetrate Christine doggy style afterwards, he has a look of decided disgust on his face and pushes his wife away and tells her to “cut if off” when she attempts to embrace him after he hatefully blows his load. Naturally, Christine is deeply hurt by the hate-fucking and subsequently tells her daughter to do her the favor of leaving Markus alone for a while because she believes that he is “angry…about us.” When Elisabeth asks her mother, “What if I become a lesbian?,” she laughs and replies “you won’t” because she is “absolutely sure” there is no way she will grow up to be a ladylicker, even though her emotionally negligent upbringing is already causing her to have a low opinion of both men and heterosexual relationships.
When Markus eventually takes Johannes grilling, the boy seems fairly concerned after the protagonist comes up with some obviously phony accuse as to why the rest of his family will conveniently not be joining them. Among other things, Markus’ cookout session with Johannes inspires him to ask his secret fuckbody Oliver if he can bring “someone young” the next day they hangout. As is quite apparent at this point in the film, not only is Markus a crypto-cocksucker, but now he is beginning to develop a sort of hellish spiritual Priapism for preteen boys that no quick knob-job from a gawky 20-year-old twink can cure. As an assumed result of his growing sexual repression, Markus begins to act all the more cruel with his daughter and wife and even goes so far as to ban them from conversing in English together. Indeed, as a sort of symbolic act in regard to their bond together as a mother and daughter who are the only ones that understand the oppressive environment they live in as the virtual slaves of an internally distant and exceedingly evasive patriarch, Christine and Elisabeth only communicate to one another in English, thus making it all the more brutal that Markus would attempt to deny them of their solacing ‘secret language.’ Meanwhile, Markus takes Johannes out to another grilling excursion and asks the boy to do him the “favor” of taking his shirt off. Somewhat curiously, when Markus asks him to drop his top, Johannes asks him “What do I get for it?,” thus hinting that the little lad is fully aware that he is using his NAMBLA sex appeal to manipulate the middle-aged man. While Markus does not touch the boy, he does masturbate while fantasizing about him on the day of his wedding anniversary while he thinks his wife is asleep. Needless to say, Markus and Christine do not have anniversary sex, even though their daughter attempts to get them in the spirit by throwing them a small celebration of sorts. After all, as an aberrosexual mensch that only has a small boy in his mind, Markus cannot be bothered with frivolous things like fucking his wife on the day of their anniversary.
When Markus dares to kiss Johannes on the top of his head during one of their secret grilling excursions, the boy asks in a somewhat startled fashion, “What’re you doing?,” yet he does not dare runaway or tell anyone about the particularly perverse gesture as he has big plans that involve serious blackmail. Naturally, Elisabeth eventually asks her father if he plans to divorce her mother because, “She’s weird sometimes,” but the protagonist denies it and even attempts to calm his daughter’s fears by replying, “You don’t need to be afraid of your Mother. She loves you more than anything. She’ll never do anything to you” and then adds, “You’re going to be a really pretty, beautiful woman.” As a result of her assumed misguided belief that it is her mother’s fault that her parents have a miserable loveless marriage, Elisabeth uses lipstick to write “whore” in English on Christine’s mirror. Of course, Christine is feeling increasingly emotionally isolated and is not too happy with both her husband and daughter’s behavior, so she perversely decides to fasten a noose to hang herself with from the second floor of the family house while Elisabeth is in her company. When Elisabeth asks about the noose, her mother disturbingly replies, “Just playing a game, honey” and then waits for Markus to get home. When Markus finally gets home and sees his wife with a rope around her neck, he simply walks back out the house, as he is merely annoyed by his wifey and does not want to deal with her insufferable cry for help. At this point, the viewer thinks that Christine might really kill herself, but she does not, as she probably feels it would be a huge waste to off herself for the benefit of an absurdly apathetic man that does not even care if she lives or dies. Meanwhile, Markus confides to Johannes, “You can always come to me…even if it’s money.” Of course, Johannes wants way more money than Markus would be freely willing to offer him, so he does not act on the protagonist's ostensibly generous offer. In fact, preteen cocktease Johannes soon begins hinting to Markus’ family members that he is carrying on an indecent relationship with the family man. When Johannes randomly goes by Markus’ house and asks Elisabeth where he is and she replies “What is it to you?,” the conniving little brat has the gall to reply, “A whole lot.” At this point, it is obvious that Elisabeth no longer has a girlish crush on Johannes and that her classmate has some sort of repellent relationship with her father. As for Markus, he no longer has any interest in his fuckboy Oliver and even stops giving head to him during mid-blowjob. Needless to say, Markus is not happy with Oliver when he brings by an overweight 22-year-old after asking him to bring someone “young,” as he specifically wanted someone about ten years younger like his preteen love interest Johannes.
When Chris’ girlfriend Anne comes by the Larsen home to complain that her beau has not fucked her in over a week, perennially pussy-blocked Christine, who has literally no one to confide in, is hardly sympathetic. After complaining about Chris’ recent underwhelming sexual performance, Anne then begins to brag how great of a lover he is in general, stating, “I tell you, sex with him is fantastic. He is a real man, you know? Sometimes he took me really rough, wild…And sometimes, he was suddenly really tender, almost shy. And boy did he go down on me. He sometimes didn’t stop until I came.” At this point, Christine, who sees her friend’s problems as being particularly petty compared to her own, becomes almost murderously jealous and screams at Anne like a truly cracked cunt, “And when are you going to ask how I am? You come in here and tell me a bunch of shit! I had no vacation and I also didn’t get fucked. Welcome to my world. It’s been years, years since he looked at me. It’s been years since he went down on me. What do you think? Do you think you know the world? And you complain about one week? You slut. You could have a thousand men. Look for someone else. But don’t come to me crying your eyes out. I can do that all by myself. I don’t need you here for that. I’m doing shitty! Welcome to my world. Fuck off!” After all, hell hath no fury like a middle-aged woman who has been screwed out of a sex life because her hubby is more interested in a little boy that looks like the long last brother of Hanson.
When Christine discovers she is pregnant as a result of the one rare occasion where her hubby fucked her doggy style, she decides that the best course of action is to give herself a primitive abortion by shoving a coat-hanger up her vagina. Naturally, Markus never learns that she was ever even pregnant, which was Christine's intention, hence why she performed an abortion from the comfort of her home. Meanwhile, Markus becomes exceedingly enraged when Johannes shows up an hour later to one of their secret grillings and screams at the boy, “Are you jerking me around? If so, then don’t come here anymore.” Hoping to regain Markus’ faith in him, Johannes agrees to spend the night with Markus at the summerhouse, though the viewer can only speculate what the two actually do that evening. At this point, Christine begins to suspect that her husband and Johannes have a sick secret relationship and even hints at her knowledge by remarking to Markus, “He’s a nice-looking boy, that Johannes.” After hinting to her hubby that she knows what he and Johannes are doing, Christine maturely decides to squat and piss on Markus’ sandals. When Johannes declares to Markus, “I think I love you. I like your smell” and then adds, “I’ll take my shorts off for you,” it becomes too tempting for the protagonist and he opts to take the boy home. With Markus beginning to ignore him, Johannes decides to randomly show up at his house while his entire family is there and says to the protagonist when he asks what he wants in a somewhat hostile tone, “You said if I need anything, no matter what, I can always come to you.” From there, Johannes demands 150,000 Euros and attempts to blackmail Markus by stating in front of his wife and daughter in a somewhat smug fashion, “I can tell your family how you kissed miss. Or should I say how you get naked in front of me? Or how you grabbed me…Or…how I bled.” Needless to say, when Johannes says he has one hour to get the money or he will tell everyone about their very special relationship, Markus becomes frantic and goes to get the cash. Somewhat shockingly, Christine becomes more enraged with Johannes than her husband as she is jealous of him and hatefully yells at the boy, “You’re ruining our lives. You shitty little rat. You liar.” When Christine asks Johannes if he can prove his claims, the smartass kid smugly states, “The condoms in the coffee can. Markus’s body is completely covered with hair.” While Johannes is talking, Elisabeth decides to grab a Norman Bates-esque butcher knife. As to what happens in the end, you will have to watch the film for and find out for yourself.
Notably, being mailing me a DVD screener of The Summer Home, Artsploitation Films sent me a press e-mail about the film with the curious title “Warning: THIS IS NOT THE TYPICAL ARTSPLOITATION HORROR FILM!,” with the message reading, “The storyline definitely makes for uncomfortable viewing” and “An intriguing film for adventurous film-goers not put off by its indelicate theme,” as if they are even afraid of promoting their own film. Sort of like Luchino Visconti's Death in Venice (1971) meets Adrian Lyne’s Lolita (1997) in secluded kraut suburbia as directed by the more restrained progeny of Gregg Araki and Dominik Graf, Burz’s pleasantly polished yet nonetheless unnerving cinematic work is easily one of the most innately ‘bourgeois’ subversive films I have ever seen, as a work that seems like it was directed by a reformed gay pederast who wants to warn other potential pedo family men what might happen if they dare to attempt to act on their long repressed urge to seduce a preteen skater boy. Of course, the film is not just about pederasty but the hermetic hell that goes with upper-middleclass living and the spiritual retardation, emotional morbidity, sexual debauchment, moral hypocrisy, and overall interfamilial dysfunction that oftentimes accompanies it. Indeed, had the male lead of the film lived during his grandfather's generation, he could have been a proud Brownshirt in the Sturmabteilung and a comrade of Herr Röhm and Herr Heines instead of living a pathetic lie that causes the destruction of various other lives in the process, but of course modern Germany is no longer the same place that once produced the greatest thinkers, philosophers, and poets in the world, which is probably the natural retarding result of about 70 years of American occupation. Of course, few things are more dejecting to see than a hysterical sexually repressed woman, which is probably the inevitable consequence of a closest queen opting to begin a loveless marriage to a woman who never thought she would marry a man that prefers virginal kid cocks over old cunts. On top of that, as Burz's film reveals, any progeny begot from such a shame marriage can only grow up to have screwed up perspectives on both love and the opposite sex. While The Summer House reveals all these things, it offers no answers, which is all the more intriguing when one considers the director’s professional background as a psychologist.
When asked why he made The Summer House, auteur Curtis Burz replied, “I didn’t want to make a moralistic film. I didn’t want to make a personal film, and I didn’t work with any autobiographical material in THE SUMMER HOUSE. I wanted to try out a new genre with my colleagues. After the last two films we decided to approach this theme, to plumb its depths, to dedicate ourselves to it, as one simply does in artistic work…and not anything more. It’s a movie, fiction, not a documentary, not an analysis. It’s simply an artistic work.” While Burz describes his film as “simply an artistic work,” one cannot ignore the fact that it depicts a sort of social and spiritual plague of nihilistic hedonism and spiritual retardation that is not just prevalent in Germany, but Western European and the United States in general. Indeed, after watching The Summer House, it is easy to see why modern Germans are more or less committing collective suicide by refusing to have children, as the bourgeoisie is rotten to the core, but one should not expect anything less from a nation where cultural pride and community, which were once intrinsic ingredients of their country, are now seen as taboo and where Hollywood is constantly telling them that their pronatalistic ancestors are evil genocidal monsters. With mainstream German cinema increasingly resembling a bad parody of Hollywood, directors like Burz, who manages to maintain artistic freedom due to working with such small budgets and inordinately dedicated actors, are becoming all the more important as the only authentic no bullshit cinematic voices in krautland. Not unlike Jörg Buttgereit in the past and pseudonymous auteur Marian Dora today, Burz has proven that passion and artistic integrity trumps big budgets and stars when it comes to making truly provocative cinema that betrays the mainstream message that contemporary Germany is a happy democratic multicultural country where the path to paradise is achieved via Americanization. Unlike Oskar Roehler's modern classic Agnes und seine Brüder (2004) aka Agnes and His Brothers and the pedo-heavy oeuvre of Todd Solondz, The Summer House is a work that dares to confront interfamilial sexual dysfunction and the overall rotten fruits of upper-middleclass dystopia in a completely unrelenting fashion that never succumbs to comic relief. Indeed, I certainly found the film more distressing than Haneke collaborator Markus Schleinzer's admirable debut feature Michael (2011). In its thankful lack of sapless sentimentalism in contrast to the dark Hollywood drama The Woodsman (2004) starring Kevin Bacon as an ‘empathetic childfucker,’ Burz's film even manages to chill the viewer more than the decidedly disturbing NAMBLA doc Chicken Hawk: Men Who Love Boys directed by Adi Sideman. Arguably most importantly, The Summer House, quite unlike similarly themed pseudo-arthouse Hollywood twaddle like Sam Mendes' American Beauty (1999) and Todd Field's Little Children (2006), actually demands that the viewer make their own moral judgements, which is probably too much to ask for those viewers that are used to having their morality and opinions spoon-fed to them by the turds of Tinseltown who curiously seem to have no problems with the long unpunished sex crimes of their favorite Hebraic auteurs Roman Polanski and Woody Allen. Of course, The Summer House depicts a world where the forcibly imported American dream has become a metaphysically malefic nightmare for one decidedly dysfunctional Teutonic family where the patriarch just happens to be a predatory poof, which is not something you will ever see in Hollywood or in the so-called American independent film world, thus making it essential viewing for anyone that likes their cinema to be challenging and, in turn, rewarding.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:43 AM
Soiled Sinema 2007 - 2013. All rights reserved. Best viewed in Firefox and Chrome.