Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Films #7 and #8: Big Girls Don't Cry and Summer Storm

Big Girls Don’t Cry                                             
Released: 2002                                                
Directed by: Maria von Heland                         
Original title: Groβe Mädchen Weinen Nicht (Big Girls Don’t Cry)

Summer Storm
Released: 2004
Directed by: Marco Kreuzpaintner
Original title: Sommersturm (Summer Storm)

Both of these films depict young people discovering who they really are and coming to realise that things are never black and white. While Big Girls Don’t Cry focuses on the repercussions of an escalating campaign of revenge, Summer Storm follows a group of teenagers struggling with their sexual feelings.

In Big Girls Don’t Cry, best friends Kati (Anna Maria Mühe) and Steffi (Karolina Herfurth) discover that Steffi’s father is having an affair, and set out to get revenge by targeting the other woman’s daughter, Tessa, an aspiring singer. After their initial efforts prove unsuccessful, they step things up by sending Tessa to a pornographer, telling her he's actually a record producer. As events unfold, Steffi's behaviour becomes more and more extreme, and it is Kati - who initially seems the more rebellious and promiscuous of the two, with a much unhappier home life - who starts to question the wisdom of their actions and whether their friendship will last the distance.

The plot itself is pretty melodramatic, but the characters are perhaps a little more nuanced than you might find in an equivalent Hollywood movie. The scene in which Tessa visits the pornographer flips in an instance from mildly embarrassing to absolutely terrifying. All in all a fairly standard - but well-acted - teen drama.

Summer Storm focuses on the friendship between Tobi (Robert Stadtlober) and Achim (Kostja Ullmann), stars of the local rowing team. While Achim is waiting to take his relationship with his girlfriend, Sandra, to the next level, Tobi is confused by his feelings for both his good friend and for Anke, a member of the girls’ rowing team. Things come to a head when both teams head to the countryside to train alongside several other clubs, including the “Queerstrokes”, a team populated entirely by gay men. While Tobi finds himself identifying with them and becoming increasingly attracted to one of their number, other members of his team react with abject horror. 

There are stereotypes and clichés on both sides – the heterosexual man who believes that gay men must automatically be attracted to him, to the camp, limp-wristed homosexual – but the characters themselves recognise and mock these ideas. As well as dealing with the difficulties of ‘coming out’, the film also addresses the worries of heterosexual teenagers on the brink of losing their virginity. Sandra is in a stable relationship but insecure about her body, while Anke struggles to read the signs she seems to be receiving from Tobi, and eventually it is she who encourages him to be true to himself. 

There is plenty of humour to be found here, and a special mention should go to Robert Stadtlober's great delivery of the most challenging role. Summer Storm is by far the better of the two films I've covered today.

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