When I first read the press release for THE SUMMER HOUSE, I was immediately intrigued. The plot sounded like it could have been pulled from today’s news headlines, and it immediately piqued my interest. Unfortunately, the execution of the plot in the film does not play out as well as it does on paper. The resulting film is a lackluster piece of jumbled ideas and mixed messages. In short, THE SUMMER HOUSE is a bit of a letdown for me.
If you are not familiar with THE SUMMER HOUSE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Artsploitation Films:
The architect and head of the family Markus Larsen secretly lives out his bisexual tendencies while his wife Christine and their 11-year-old daughter Elisabeth drown in unbearable loneliness. When Markus gets to know the 12-year-old son of a colleague, he feels an immediate affection for the boy. Slowly, Markus begins to approach Johannes and creates an intimacy of which he increasingly loses control. While his wife and daughter are damagingly affected by their symbiotic relationship, Johannes is playing his own secret game which, in the end, leads to disaster for every family member.
The disappointment with this film does not start immediately. In fact, around the halfway point is when my frown started. Prior to that, the film was faring decently…not perfect, but entertaining nonetheless. However, when the disappointment starts, it never stops.
THE SUMMER HOUSE is shot well, but that is not enough to save it. The film has too many flaws, both in regard to character and plot, and the concept behind the narrative never truly comes into fruition. As such, there are many dramatic things happening between the characters, however no explanation is ever given as to why.
For example, early in the film, Markus and his wife, Christine, have dinner with a colleague and his girlfriend. The group chats for a few moments…and then an orgy ensues. Moments later, we see Markus having sex with his wife…only to stop in anger and angst, and storm off. There’s no mention of why they are ‘swingers’ or what this has to do with the story. The same can be said with Markus’s inability to finish sex with his wife.
Then there is the relationship between Christine and their daughter, Elisabeth. We are led to believe early on that they have a tight-knit mother/daughter bond. But halfway through the film, Elisabeth uses lipstick to write the word ‘WHORE’ on her mother’s mirror. Why?? When Christine sees the word, she becomes distraught and wipes it off…yet she never says anything. The lack of development here is very confusing all the way around.
Finally, a peculiar scene later on in THE SUMMER HOUSE pretty much puts the nail in the coffin for me on this film. Christine is upset about Markus’ distant feelings for her. So, she makes a noose that hangs down in the path of front door, gets a chair, stands on it, and loops her head through it. When Elisabeth asks what she’s doing, Christine says “Just playing a game, sweetie.” A moment later, Markus opens the door and sees Christine. She threatens to step off the chair if Markus comes in the house, so he turns around and leaves. After he’s gone, Christine undoes the noose…and then goes on like nothing happened.
These examples are just a few of the curious and weird aspects of this film. Granted, the primary storyline is pretty interesting (and I like how the end plays out), but neither of those positives are enough to save THE SUMMER HOUSE, either.
As such, I cannot recommend THE SUMMER HOUSE. It is too confusing and too jumbled to follow for my tastes. The film is available now, however, if you decide to take a look.