Unforgettable: “An Unforgettable Summer”

Lucian Pintilie‘s 1994 comic tragedy, An Unforgettable Summer, begins, or almost begins, with the Romanian commanding officer of Captain Dumitriu (Claudiu Bleont) putting the moves on Dumitriu’s wife, Marie-Therese (Kristin Scott Thomas), before the captain’s very eyes.  Marie-Therese, however, spurns the gent and Dumitriu requests a transfer to a new garrison.  Sullenly the commanding officer dispatches the captain and his brood to the dry, barren and awful Romanian border.  (The time is 1925.)  All in all, the C.O. has coldly bullied Dumitriu.

On the border, by and by, eight Romanian soldiers are murdered by bandits believed to be Bulgarian.  A small group of Bulgarian peasants maintains that the bandits are Macedonians, but the Romanians don’t listen to them.  They know the peasants are not the bandits, but they proceed to beat them in the hope of getting information—even as the odd charade of the peasants’ tending Dumitriu’s vegetable garden (for pay) is initiated.  As it happens, the peasants are intended for execution, which throws Dumitriu into a distressing inner conflict and Marie-Therese into shock and desperation.

So again there is bullying: political and military bullying.  Behind it is lust—for women, for retaliation, for power over others.  A tide of legal aggression can be opposed only with reluctance.

As director and scenarist, Pintilie has adapted a novel titled The Salad.  His direction is terrifically shrewd and ambitious, and, although we don’t need to see the uninteresting body of Kristin Scott Thomas in the nude, Summer is magnificently acted.  It is a film about military violence as dark, I’d say, as our 18-year-old war in arid Afghanistan.

I have seen this film on VHS and, free of charge, on YouTube.

(In Romanian with English subtitles)

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