Passing Summer (2001)

Schanelec skilfully captures the ebb and flow of conversations between family, friends and lovers in this slow-moving drama about a woman’s discontentment. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Angela Schanelec
2001 | Germany | Drama | 81 mins | 1.85:1 | German
Not rated – likely to be at least M18 for nudity

Cast: Ursina Lardi, Andreas Patton, Anne Tismer
Plot: A woman faces a variety of emotional crises as she spends the summer interacting in differing ways with friends, family, and lovers in this drama.
Awards: Official Selection (Berlin)
International Sales:

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Existential
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex – Elliptical
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Passing Summer best resembles Afternoon (2007), a film that writer-director Angela Schanelec would make six years later, inasmuch as both are skilful meditations on the ebb and flow of conversations between loved ones and friends. 

Passing Summer is the slightly more accessible of the two, but it is still not an easy watch if slow-moving arthouse dramas aren’t your cup of tea. 

Centering on a woman named Valerie, who feels a mounting sense of discontentment due to the not-so-positive developments in her life that we learn through her conservations with family, friends and lover. 

She mostly keeps her emotions to herself, but Schanelec affords us some ‘unplanned’ moments of her vulnerability that are captured briefly if naturally. 

One scene comes to mind: Valerie is leaning against her brother’s car feeling dejected when an insect suddenly buzzes around her head, causing her to frantically swat it away.  As she does so, we catch a glimpse of her tortured face. 

Schanelec is a master in capturing these little things without any artifice, even if her filmmaking style is deliberately formalistic. 

As such, I find many of her films rather riveting to watch because she tosses aside the conventional ideas of clear characterisations and traditional narratives, and instead, rely on dialogue, visual composition and blocking to evoke the undercurrents of close relationships in order to reveal the cracks within. 

Some people do feel that it is impossible to be truly happy in life; in a way, seeing Schanelec’s films over these past months has allowed me to better understand why that might be so.

Grade: B+



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