(Russian dialogue, with English subtitles)
Like something straight out of Tolstoy, this old-fashioned tale of late-czarist Russia captures the first blush of post-adolescent romance, and says something deeper and sadder about human nature. Perfectly cast and deliciously mounted, “Summer of Love” will be worth seeking out, even if exhibs have a hard time finding it.
The story is classic: Handsome young medical student Alexander (Siergiej Sznyriew) is whiling away his last summer of freedom at the summer estate of his cousin Sonia Cherkasov (Ewa Bukowska). The two have always had a low-flame thing for each other, and he figures this is a good time to experience “love without responsibility” before hitting the books. What he doesn’t expect is that she has also invited her Polish pal Nathalie (Daria Powieriennowa). Predicting her cousin will fall for this introspective beauty, Sonia further confuses the arrangement by asking Alexander to pretend to be interested in her friend in order to throw her father, the suspicious Count Cherkasov (Ernest Romanow), off the incestuous scent.
Then there’s the problem of the women’s two older, and potentially dangerous, suitors. But even without these complications, Sonia is a serious handful, intent on controlling everyone in sight, and never completely sure of her own feelings in the bargain. For a while, the young man is content to stew in the amorous quagmire, but the stakes get higher as he realizes the depth of his interest in Nathalie.
Veteran Polish helmer Feliks Falk (his made-for-TV “Samowolka” was also in Montreal) couldn’t have handled his small ensemble any better, and he manages to conjure their world nostalgically, with a fitting classical music score, but no undue fussiness in the art direction. Likewise, lenser Krzysztof Tusiewicz establishes a palpable sense of faded place without overwhelming his frail subjects with pictorial melancholy. Unsurpassed fest fare, this “Summer” should be invited to linger well into 1995.