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The Independent Critic

Sten Jacobs, Anna Altmann, Jaspar Fuld, Nina Splettstößer, Stephan Burgi, Natascha Zimmerman, Felix Witzlau, Tobias Frieben, Leon Delor
Curtis Burz
NR (Equiv. to R)
95 Mins.
Artsploitation Films

 "The Summer House" Released by Artsploitation Films 
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Curtis Burz's The Summer House isn't for timid viewers, though that could be said for pretty much all of indie distributor Artsploitation FIlms's cinematic catalogue. In the German language film, Marcus (Sten Jacobs) lives with his wife Christine (Anna Altmann) and their 11-year-old daughter, Elisabeth (Nina Splettstößer). The family is obviously fractured, Christine's overwhelming loneliness and disconnection from her husband more than a little bit because of his relatively closeted bisexuality and, more uncomfortably, his growing interest in Johannes (Jaspar Fuld), the 12-year-old son of a financially troubled colleague (Stephan Burgi) whose awareness of his burgeoning sexuality and its impact on this older man threaten a role reversal of who is the adult and who is the child.

Reminiscent of such films as Lolita, The Woodsman and others, The Summer House may very well prove to be a challenging view for those who can't, or would prefer not to, get past the film's undeniable core themes that comprise the heart of this psychosexual drama.

It may prove most jarring to audiences just how "normal" the film actually presents. It's clear that Burz has gotten his cast's buy-in to the story, though it's the younger players who are especially effective here. Fuld is riveting as the young boy whose awareness is far greater than one might expect or even want to imagine, while Splettstößer takes what could have easily been a one-note role as Marcus's young daughter and really drives home a terrific performance.

While the ending isn't a particular surprise, it is bold and immensely satisfying as the film's overall edginess deserved a bold, relentless setting that helped to drive the film home.

As one might expect, the film's acting can be a little hit-and-miss throughout the ensemble. While Burz has done well in terms of creating a cohesive cast, it's noticeable that some of the performances are significantly less layered.

The Summer House isn't a film for everyone, though if you fancy yourself a fan of the indie distributor's typically edgy films then you'll likely want to give this one a try. For more information on the film, visit its page on the Artsploitation website linked to in the credits.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic