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Life happens without warning. 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner 
Starring: Robert Stadlober, Kostja Ullmann, Alicja Bachleda-Curuś, Miriam Morgenstern, Marlon Kittel  
An image from Sommersturm

Tobi (Stadlober) and Achim (Ullmann) are best friends and members of the same rowing team. While Tobi and Achim both have girlfriends, Tobi is finding it increasingly hard to deny that his feelings for Achim go beyond mere friendship. Training at a camping ground for an upcoming regatta, everyone is surprised when the expected female rowing team from Berlin is replaced by the appearance of a gay male one. As a summer storm descends on the campsite, these youths will be forced to confront who they really are.

It is tempting to label Sommersturm as a gay coming-out film, and in a nod to the style, the film incorporates multiple shots of attractive, shirtless young men. However, to pigeonhole the film like that is to be overly reductive, since at heart it is a film about self-discovery and the need to be true to oneself. A more cynical viewer might sniff at the film's tidy and uplifting conclusion, but its message is precisely about holding out the hope that acceptance and tolerance can win the day.

The cinematography of Sommersturm is skilfully handled, and the attractive cast are complemented by the beauty of the film's camp and lake settings. The storm scenes are particularly evocative of the world inhabited by these youths on the cusp of adulthood. The film's musical score also does a good job of accentuating the action. On the whole, these elements coalesce to make a film that is moving without feeling trite, that will resonate with viewers because its emotional content is universally applicable.

Ian Chung


Director: Marco Kreuzpaintner

Starring: Robert Stadlober, Kostja Ullmann, Alicja Bachleda-Curus, Jürgen Tonkel

Sommersturm (Summer Storm) is the brilliant new film from German director Marco Kreuzpaintner. Tobi and Achim have been best friends for years, and are cox and oarsman in a rowing team. Successful in the past, they are looking forward to an upcoming regatta in the countryside but have no idea of the ramifications of their summer together. Achim and his girlfriend are getting serious, but Tobi is beginning to realise his feelings for Achim run deeper than friendship and when a team of young gay men unexpectedly enter the regatta everyone is forced to deal with prejudices, fears and unknown desires. The tension builds and just like the summer storm brewing over the lake, it is only so long the atmosphere can hold before something has to give.

While Britain has ‘Beautiful Things’ and ‘Get Real’ and Canada now has ‘C.R.A.Z.Y.’, Germany finally has a ‘coming-out’ film it can be proud of with a plot, language and characters that seem very natural and real. But as much as it has been acclaimed for its realism and is about a gay young man, there is nothing in this film that is not felt by all at this age. The feeling of unrequited love and seeing that person love someone else is universally heartbreaking whatever their gender, and to be close to that person but not in the way you want just makes it all the harder. In this way it is a film about youth and identity in general, and the need to be open to new horizons.

The cinematography is impressive with lush landscape scenes always twitching with a sense of isolation, and there are some beautiful scenes where the camera floats over the lake in the rain to the sound of wonderfully melancholy classical music. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Sommersturm though is its young actors who are incredible and honest in their portrayals. In all this is an emotional journey in which everyone will see aspects of themselves at one time or another, well worth the watch.

Hannah Upton

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Screenings of this film:

2009/2010 Spring Term (35mm)