Review: Summer Heat (2008)


Director: Monique van de Ven | 96 minutes | drama | Actors: Sophie Hilbrand, Waldemar Torenstra, Jeroen Willems, Johan Leysen, Cees Geel, Jelka van Houten, Jochum ten Haaf, Gijs Naber, André Arend van de Noord, Giam Kwee, Bert Luppes, Rik van de Westelaken, Matteo van der Grijn, Peter van Bokhorst, Sarah Jonker, Maartje van de Wetering, Hilbert Dijkstra, Ronald Top, Lidewij Benus

Monique van de Ven knows better than anyone that a good start is half done. The actress had a dazzling debut in the Wolkers film ‘Turks Fruit’ (1973), now an undisputed classic that is seen by an entire generation as the best that Dutch cinema has ever produced.

It will not be a coincidence that Van de Ven also chose a work by Wolkers, who passed away in 2007, for her (full-length) directorial debut. In ‘Zomerhitte’ a number of characteristic Wolkers motifs – sex, nature, artistry – are integrated in a love drama and crime story. Unfortunately, the love drama turns out to be unoriginal and the crime plot is incoherent, unbelievable and anything but exciting. Plus, it contains just about every crime cliché you can think of, and despite an attempt at modern slang (‘don’t fuck me’), the crooks aren’t the kind you’d expect in a 2008 movie. No troubling criminals like in ‘Van God Los’, but sketchy characters who only betray their profession by the continuous waving of pistols.

The sex in ‘Zomerhitte’ does not cause cheerfulness either. In the boundless and oversexed internet age, where every good citizen can be a porn star thanks to home video and webcam, many directors opt for explicit sex or no sex at all. Summer heat takes a middle course. A lot of nudity, a lot of dirty talk, a lot of groans, but nothing that we haven’t seen a hundred times before. What was exciting in the 70s and in the following decades at most mischievous, at the beginning of the 21st century mainly caused delay and boredom.

Against these flaws (where you can also count the soapy dialogues) there are only a few bright spots, including the acting of Sophie Hilbrand and Waldemar Torenstra. In addition, the viewer, like main character Bob, remains in the dark for a long time as to who of the characters can be trusted and who cannot. This uncertainty means that sitting out ‘Summer Heat’ is not a challenge.

Nevertheless, the directorial debut of Monique van de Ven does not leave a great impression. You can expect more from a film called ‘Zomerhitte’ than the lukewarm bite that we are served here.