I could, and do, relate to Sommersturm.
The plotline is a familiar story to anyone who’s developed feelings for someone who can’t return them, at a time when such feelings are supposed to be directed elsewhere.
Teenagers Tobi (Robert Stadlober) and Achim (Kostja Ullmann) are best friends and members of a rowing team. As they train at a summer camp for a competition, Achim grows closer to his girlfriend Sandra (Miriam Morgenstern), which forces Tobi to contend with his feelings for Achim.
Tobi’s team meets up with a gay rowing team from Berlin, and the encounter forces the team to adjust its perception of gay people, while it clarifies for Tobi what he feels for Achim.
It’s a good story, certainly one that transcends borders.
And for most of the film, director Marco Kreuzpaintner and writer Thomas Bahmann do a fine job of setting up the conflicts between the characters. Tobi’s bumbling attempts to deny his sexuality are believable, and the jealousy he feels for Sandra comes across as genuine.
Even the comedic relief of the two rowing teams overcoming their misperceptions of each other doesn’t feel outlandish.
It’s the last parts of the film that lose me.
Of course, the film is titled “Summer Storm”, so such a storm arrives at a point where tensions between the characters come to boiling point. And in the requisite morning-after shots, in which the characters ultimately pair off (or not), the camera pans slowly across the beds of each character, mournful music serving as a soundtrack.
Yeah, it’s as WB as it sounds.
Then there’s the love scene, in which Tobi pretty much learns girls don’t do it for him. It’s hot and wonderfully shot — and a requisite for pretty much any movie appealing to a gay male audience.
Sommersturm has a story to tell, one experienced by a number of people, told with an unflinching eye. And for most of the film, it does a good job. But it also slips into cliché, which can remove audiences from the power of that story.
P.S. I couldn’t help but notice the aGLIFF pre-show included a video for Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax”, and in the film, the band’s “The Power of Love” plays in one of the scenes. How serendipitous Welcome to the Pleasuredome is being reissued on Oct. 4?